A Burr Ridge pilot killed Sunday in a crash in Kansas is being remembered as an excellent pilot and wonderful man.
Vlado Lenoch, 64, and his passenger died after the World War II-era P-51 Mustang fighter he was flying crashed one day after it flew in a festival that celebrates famed aviator Amelia Earhart in her Kansas hometown.
The crash occurred at about 10:15 a.m. Sunday when the 1944 plane turned around, dove toward the ground and crashed in a field about 5 miles south of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport in Atchison, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported on its website.
His passenger, 34-year-old Bethany Root, the manager of the Amelia Earhart airport, was also killed. Atchison is near the Missouri border in northeastern Kansas.
Jim Lewis, a professional photographer, who covered air shows where Lenoch performed, including the Battle Creek Field of Flight Balloon and Air Festival in Michigan in 2015 and again earlier this month, said, Lenoch “flew like he could do it backwards or blindfolded.”
Bruce Hillyer, who lives in Chicago, met Lenoch several years ago through a neighbor who owns a T33 Jet Fighter. The neighbor had the jet restored and Lenoch flew the plane from Colorado to Rockford where the work was done at Heritage Aero, Inc., Hillyer said.
Hillyer is familiar with the T33 because his father was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s and the T33 was his favorite plane to fly.
Hillyer had the opportunity to fly in the plane piloted by Lenoch from Gary, Indiana to Wisconsin.
Lenoch was a wonderful pilot, Hillyer said. And the flight was “one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We talked a lot about my dad and about the airplane.”
Lenoch was “an air show legend,” and nationally known, Hillyer said. “He was very well-loved and well respected.”
He recently requalified to fly Heritage Flights for the Air…