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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amanda Franklin: Friday's Fabulous Flyer

Amanda Franklin recently passed away, leaving a huge hole in the sky and the hearts of many. The rain poured from the heavens as tears flowed with the passing of this beautiful and talented woman. She will be missed by many, but her memory and imprint on this world will last forever. 

Christine Hollingsworth shared Amanda's story with me, and I asked her is she wanted to write it. Christine sent me the following post of how this amazing woman, Amanda Franklin, lived and inspired many, and is the reason Christine flies today.

"I cried writing this. Anyone more than a little familiar with the air show circuit would recognize Amanda and her husband, Kyle, as they performed their famous Pirated Skies routine around the country. I was lucky enough to see them twice at Oshkosh. Kyle flew their Waco biplane, and Amanda was his wing walker.

Both Amanda and Kyle come from long lines of air show pilots. Kyle's famous father, Jimmy Franklin, was good friends with Amanda's father, Bobby Younkin. All of them were active in air shows across the world for many years. Amanda's brother, Matt, also performs in air shows in a very well-lit Twin Beech.

Amanda became a pilot at sixteen and learned to fly more than fifteen types of airplanes. Watching her at Oshkosh was one of the moments that made me want to learn to fly. I was lucky enough to talk to her after her performance was over, and I told her I wasn't sure if I wanted to fly because I had never seen any women around the airport at home, only guys, and I didn't want to be the only one there. She assured me that I would have plenty of support from other women pilots and mentioned the Ninety-Nines, of which she was a proud member.

While on the ground, Amanda dedicated all of her time to paying tribute to our soldiers and helping more people, especially young people, become interested in aviation. She was wonderfully sweet and caring, and above everything else, she was brave.

March 12, 2011. While performing at an air show in Brownsville, Texas, the biplane's engine suddenly failed. Since they were so close to the ground, Kyle did not have much time to conduct any emergency procedures. Amanda had enough time to return to the forward seat in the open cockpit before Kyle landed adjacent to the runway hard enough to collapse the main landing gear. Even though the engine quit, the electrically-driven pump for the smoke oil continued to run, dumping the flammable oil into the hot engine compartment. Both Kyle and Amanda survived the initial crash but experienced severe burns and were taken to the hospital.

Kyle, being seated further back from the engine, was burned less severely than Amanda and was well enough to update the couple's Facebook page every day, giving reports on their healing progress. Many people sent get well wishes, cards, and donations to help with their hospital bills, as well as suggesting unconventional burn treatments that had been tried in other countries. Amanda's injuries, however, proved to be more serious than the doctors initially thought. After one particularly bad day when an infection raged through her body and destroyed most of the experimental skin grafts she had just received, Kyle believed Amanda did not want to continue suffering through months of painful treatment that did not appear to be working, and the doctors advised him that after taking such a hard hit to her immune system, she was unlikely to survive the following two weeks leading up to her next skin graft. She was placed on comfort care, and the world waited.

Amanda and Kyle
Amanda Franklin passed away on May 27. She was twenty-five years old, and she was one of the biggest inspirations to me. It is entirely possible that I might not have learned to fly without watching her perform or speaking to her. The world is missing a beautiful, talented woman pilot.

As tragic as their accident has been, Kyle has tried to help others use it as a learning experience. Several manufacturers are considering redesigning their smoke oil systems in order to prevent a similar incident from occurring. We shouldn't need horrible accidents to happen to show us our mistakes, but when they do, we owe it to the victims to learn everything we can and do everything we can to keep it from happening again.

Kyle has a long way to go as far as healing on the inside, but he also has to heal on the outside. If you would like to donate to help with his family's medical bills, please visit the International Council of Airshows Foundation

A fund has also been set up through Moonlight Fund Moonlight Fund that specifically helps female burn victims."

Thank you Christine for sharing Amanda's story. Kyle we are all terribly sorry for your loss, and my heart goes out to you and your families. Amanda's legacy lives on in others, and will continue to do so.

Enjoy the Journey... You never know how long it will last.

~ Karlene

All pictures and information courtesy of


  1. What a heartbreaking story. And what a loss. She and Kyle sound like wonderful people. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Thank you for writing a lovely tribute to a woman who lived her short life to the fullest.

  3. That's so terribly sad, she was so young. They say it isn't tragic to die do something you love, but I think in this case it definitely is. It's wonderful that she will be remembered so fondly by so many though.

  4. Thanks my dear Captain for this tribute.. Amanda will always fly with us! .. Kyle, Matt and Amanda, what an inspiration!! and will always be ..

  5. Good choice for your Friday Flyer. I was following Kyle's updates on FB. Very sad.
    Amazing family, I've seen both of their fathers perform (that jet powered Waco was the best!) as well as Kyle and Amanda at airshows. I hope Kyle get's back into it, I'm sure that is what she would want him to do.


  6. Oh, Kar, this is so sad. My heart goes out to Kyle and their families and friends. It is hard to lose someone so young with such a spark. I wish I had met her at an airshow or anywhere.... Wow. Kathy

  7. Wow... I didn't know Amanda or the show, but just reading this almost brought tears to my eyes.. Aviation is a close-knit world and losing one of ours in such a tragedy is heart-breaking. Even as short as it was, this biography of Amanda is a true inspiration for me, and for all of us I hope, to continue on with our passion and share it generously with the people around us.

    My prayers to her husband, and thoughts of rememberance for Amanda..

  8. Beautifully written and a wonderful tribute to a wonderful young woman.


  10. Thank you for sharing. A sad story, but also an inspiring one.

  11. Thank you everyone for your heart-felt comments and prayers for Amanda and her family. I've found myself looking at her photos often this weekend, and find it hard to imagine a loss of someone so special. Keeping her memory alive ... thank you all.

  12. Charlie & Terry SmithJune 25, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    Thank you so much for the loving tribute to a wonderful woman. Amanda was a loving, adventurous child, always gracious and caring of others. She received her love for flying from her father, Bobby Younkin but her loving spirit and compassionate soul were given to her by her mother, Jeanie. So many young girls take negative turns in their youth, but Amanda was raised to share her life with integrity and love. I believe a tribute must be given to the mother who raised this wonderful girl and surely is feeling the void in her heart and her life. Amanda would not have been the woman she was without the support and love of her mom, Jeanie Bone Younkin. “Thank you Jeanie for sharing Amanda with the world. Thank you!”

  13. Charlie and Terry, Thank you for the beautiful comment. Yes, a huge tribute to her mother. Jeanie your love and guidance gave Amanda a good life while she was with us. There will be a void in your heart forever, but with time I can only hope the pain lessens and your joy is found in remembering the time she had with you and the person that she was. A void will always be there, but maybe with time it can fill with wonderful memories of your gift to the world.

  14. I never followed the air show circuit & stumbled upon a new a video online of pirated skies & it prompted me to pull up more videos & info. Amanda truly seemed to be a beyond amazing person & Kyle appeared to be beyond happy & in love with her madly. The only thing that I saw that bothered me, was I see Kyle has a new girlfriend & his web site has virtually nothing mentioning or showing Amanda - I saw 1 picture of her in pirated skies but you can't even tell it's Amanda in the picture because she is she is so small in the photo & it isn't captioned so most people wouldn't even know it's Amanda in the picture. But that's not even the main thing that I found upsetting, kyles new girlfriend is pictured - dressed as a 40's 50's fly girl almost exactly like the way Amanda was photoed w the same theme / very tacky in my opinion. You actually have the photo posted above. I just feel it's a bit disrespectful to her memory and the love they shared - I understand life goes on but we need to respect and remember our loved ones that have passed -

    1. Vicky, I always love comments on the blog, and understand your sadness.

      The reality is, all the people who had commented on this post, (and I) had never heard of Amanda Franklin, or what had happened, until Christine told me about her. She shared the story and photos.. And I shared the story with the world only to honor her. There is no disrespect intended.

      This post was to respect her, share her story, and her memory. And for a young aviator to care enough, and take the time, in honor of her, was a good thing. To share a link that has been set up for female burn victims is an honorable mention for Amanda, beyond belief.

      I am sure Kyle is grieving in his own way. Some people have to remove the continual reminders of what they lost to move forward, others will never move forward because they live in the past.

      I'm not sure which photo it is you are talking about...and is it the new girlfriend of the one that looks like her? But if you would like to send me a better photo, and clearly indicated which you don't like, I would be happy to update. But this was not to disrespect.


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