ATCHISON, Kansas- Airshow pilot Vlado Lenoch of Burr Ridge, Illinois , and his passenger, Bethany Root, manager of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport in Atchison were killed in the crash of a P-51 Mustang Sunday.
The Kansas City Star reports the crash happened around 10:30 a.m. in a field about 2 1/2 miles northeast of Cummings, Kan., less than nine miles from the airport in Atchison.
The cause of the crash is unknown, said Lt. Bryce Whelpley of the Kansas High Patrol.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration were expected to arrive on the scene Monday morning, Whelpley said. The single propeller of the plane and wreckage of the crash were strewn across a small hill.
Lenoch had performed in the festival the day before in his vintage aircraft.
The annual festival, held in Atchison, celebrates the famed aviator Amelia Earhart.
Lenoch’s online bio says he is married with three children. “His love of aviation began in 1970 when, at age 17, he learned to fly at Chicago’s Midway Airport.” Lenoch earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Purdue and a Master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following college, he was employed at the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company in Seattle as a 747 instructor. From that point, he was employed at two major airlines flying the Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-9 aircraft. Currently, he flies a corporate Citation jet for a private company in Illinois. Lenoch had over 11,000 hours of flight time and has built his own aircraft, a Pitts S-1T biplane, which he competes in at the highest level.
Bethany Root, according to a 2014 profile in the St. Joseph News-Press, followed a love of flying to the St. Joseph area three years ago at the age of 31. She worked for the airport’s management company, McElwain Sprayers of Wathena, Kan. She had been airport manager since last year.
Root had been a special education teacher and ran a custom motorcycle shop in Indianapolis until she took an opportunity to learn to fly and work with the McElwain crop dusters in Kansas and Missouri in 2014.
“She was extremely passionate about flying,” Jacque Pregont, who coordinated the Emelia Earhart Festival, said Sunday. And the festival was “excited to have (Lenoch) at the airshow.”
“It’s a horrible, horrible loss,” Pregont said.