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Published on Mar 29, 2012
Kyle Franklin and Amanda Younkin married in 2005, just a few months after they both lost their fathers to the same midair crash at the Saskatchewan Air Show. Kyle and Amanda rebuilt their lives together. They developed a wingwalking act that they performed beginning in 2009. But in March 2011, the biplane "Mystery Ship" they were flying lost power. Amanda was still up on the wing at the time and managed to get back inside before impact. Kyle made a survivable off-airport landing, but a fire broke out in the forward cockpit. Kyle was in the rear cockpit and free of flames. He was badly burned on his right hand and forearm reaching into the flames in an unsuccessful attempt to free his wife. Amanda died from her injuries two months later on May 27, 2011.
On March 26, 2012, I found Kyle at the back of the performers' hangar at the Sun 'n Fun fly-in and expo in Lakeland, Florida. He'd trailered in the SuperCub he'd be flying during the show and was reassembling it, alone. I've written about Kyle before and recognized him by sight, but we'd never met. When I called his name, he turned with a smile and walked toward me. We spoke for about half an hour. He showed me the scars on his right hand and forearm and the ones on his head where he'd hit the instrument panel. His hand has the glazed look that severe burns give but he's regained full movement. I asked him about his choice to continue performing. "This is what I've been doing my whole life," he said. "I don't know anything else to do. And I'm going to keep doing it... ."