Mike Mangold Dies in L-39 Crash

Former aerobatic champion and Red Bull Air Race winner crashes.

Mike Mangold
Mike MangoldDaniel Grund/Red Bull Content Pool

Former aerobatic champion and Red Bull Air Race winner Mike Mangold died over the weekend when his single-engine Aero L-39 crashed shortly after takeoff from the Apple Valley Airport (APV) in California. The FAA and NTSB are investigating the cause of the crash.

To say that Mangold was an accomplished pilot is an understatement. He flew F-4 Phantoms for the U.S. Air Force for a decade and then went through the Air Force Fighter Weapons School as an Outstanding Graduate. After retiring from the Air Force, Mangold moved on to fly passengers for USAir and later American Airlines.

Mangold's airshow and competition aerobatics career started in 1990 when he started flying a Super Decathlon. Since then he has performed in the Pitts S-1 and S-2, Extra 300, Sukhoi 26 and Edge 540. He won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship twice in the 2000s before moving on to the Reno Air Race where he flew a Lancair IV in the Sport Class and Aero L-29s and L-39s in the Jet Class starting in 2010.

According to the FAA, two people were aboard the L-39 when it crashed. The FAA has not confirmed that Mangold was piloting the jet; however, multiple reports indicate that he was in the airplane at the time of the crash. The name of the other person in the airplane has not been released.