'Iconic 'pilot who died in crash honored with missing man flyover at Reno Air Races
An 'iconic' pilot who died in a crash at the Reno Stead Airport this past May will be honored this weekend at the 55th annual Reno Air Races.
John Paker, a pilot who raced at the Reno Air Races for more than 40 years in multiple classes, passed away when his single-engine plane flipped over after landing on May 1. He was 80.
To honor his legacy, four pilots participated in a 'missing man' flyover Thursday night, in which one pilot abruptly pulls out of the four-plane formation to fly off to the west, signifying the fallen pilot.
"It was tough. You have to stay together and focus in the moment and keep flying the airplane but when we landed we all had tears in our eyes."
"We got together, the four pilots hugged each other, walked over to the family members and gave them a big hug. It's always very very touching," close friend Bob Mills said.
In addition, event organizers named a race after the late pilot. The John Parker Sport Gold Final is set for 1:55 p.m. on Sunday, September 16.
There will also be an 'eternal missing man' flight on Saturday, September 15 to honor his legacy.
Parker, who was known to some as 'Johnny Boy,' won gold three times in the Formula One class and once in the sport class. He was an Air Force veteran who eventually became a commercial pilot for American Airlines.
In 1967, he started his own aviation business called American Air Racing.
Close friends said he was an 'iconic' member of the sport class who encouraged innovating and experimentation.