Two Vintage Warbirds Crashed In Separate Incidents On Eve Of Oshkosh Air Show (Updated)

We are sad to report that there have been two separate mishaps involving vintage military aircraft, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport and a De Havilland DH112 Venom jet fighter, over the last 24 hours. 

The Venom had taken off from Sheboygan County Memorial Airport in Wisconsin at around 4pm on Friday when something went very wrong. It crashed into a farm close to the airport perimeter. After initially impacting into a cornfield, the jet careened into a barn and calving building, resulting in a large fire. Fire and rescue personnel had to be called in from around the region to fight the blaze.

The pilot died in the crash, along with livestock, and two farm workers were injured, as well. Thankfully, nobody on the ground died. Around 50 animals were in the buildings and some died on impact and others had to be put down due to their injuries.

Our sources say the aircraft was registered as N747J and belonged to World Heritage Air Museum located in Harper Woods, Michigan. You can see a photo of the aircraft here.

The aircraft, along with many other warbirds, were taking part in a formation workshop in preparation for EAA’s yearly AirVenture air show at Oshkosh, which is about 45 miles from Sheboygan. The aerial huge bash is slated to begin on Monday with thousands of aircraft making the pilgrimage there over the weekend. Warbirds like the Venom are one of the event’s biggest draws. 

In a separate incident that took place in Barnet, Texas, at around 9am on Saturday, a C-47 loaded with passengers crashed on takeoff from Burnet Municipal Airport. All 13 people survived the crash but seven were injured and one had been badly burned. The aircraft was beginning its trip to Oshkosh when it veered off the runway and into a grass field late during its takeoff sequence. You can see the actual crash below:

The C-47 was known as Bluebonnet Belle and belonged to the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force. Here is the background on the aircraft as posted on the squadron’s website:

“The C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” on display in our hangar is owned by the Commemorative Air Force. It was built in Oklahoma City in late 1944 as a C-47B serial number 43-49942; then flown to Montreal, Canada where it was transferred to Great Britain under the Lend-Lease program.  The aircraft was ferried to England and served with the RAF. In 1945 it was assigned to the No. 435 Transport Squadron, a Canadian unit as KN270. It was ferried to Canada in 1946. The aircraft received the Canadian Forces serial 12909 in 1970.  It was surplussed and entered civilian service in 1974. From 1974 until 1995, the aircraft was owned by a number of Canadian airline and charter companies, after which it was repatriated to the USA.

The Highland Lakes Squadron purchased this aircraft from a Part 135 cargo operator and donated it to the CAF in 2002. While legally airworthy she was in need of a lot of tender loving care. It required a two-year restoration project by the Highland Lakes Squadron to bring the aircraft up to operational standards.

Named the “Bluebonnet Belle” in honor of her home base Burnet, Texas, the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas, she is flown by experienced crews and treats air show crowds to the roar of her two mighty Pratt and Whitney radial engines. She serves as a living memorial to the thousands of men and women who built, serviced and flew them during the war years.”

Highland Lakes Squadron

The NTSB is investigating both incidents. 

This is a very rough start to the highly anticipated aerial festivities at Oshkosh. Hopefully, it will be smooth flying from here on out.

Our best wishes to all who were injured due to these tragic events and our condolences to the family and friends of the perished Venom pilot. 

Update: 2:15pm PST—

The pilot of the Venom has been identified as Martin J. Tibbitts who was a co-founder of the World Heritage Air Museum. 

Our friends over at had posted a video of the Venom in action just days before the crash:

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Tyler Rogoway


Tyler’s passion is the study of military technology, strategy, and foreign policy and he has fostered a dominant voice on those topics in the defense media space. He was the creator of the hugely popular defense site Foxtrot Alpha before developing The War Zone.