Friday, September 02, 2022

Yakovlev Yak-11 (Let C-11), N5943: Fatal accident occurred September 02, 2022 at Minter Field Airport (KMIT), Shafter, Kern County, California

National Transportation Safety Board - Accident Number: WPR22FA331 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fresno, California 

Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances. 

Date: 02-SEP-22
Time: 15:06:00Z
Regis#: N5943
Aircraft Make: YAKOVLEV
Aircraft Model: YAK-11
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Total Fatal: 1
Flight Crew: 1 Fatal
Pax: 0
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Operation: 91

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

Sherman Smoot

SHAFTER, California (KERO) — One man is dead after the vintage plane he was flying crashed near Minter Field in Shafter.

The Kern County Fire Department says the man was flying a World War II plane that had been converted for air racing competition.

Several witnesses confirmed to 23ABC that the pilot was Sherman Smoot, considered a local legend in the air racing community. The Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles also confirmed the pilot was Smoot.

Recently, Smoot was interviewed by Scripps affiliate KSBY for an event that honored veterans.

According to officials with the Warbirds Museum, Smoot was their former president and was currently a board member. He was set to be the keynote speaker at the museum's 30th-anniversary celebration on September 12th.

Born in San Luis Obispo, Smoot was raised in North Slo County. He entered Navy flight school in 1971 and left active duty in 1977 to pursue an airline career with continental airlines.

He retired from Continental in 2005 after 28 years. And ever since he's been involved in racing warbirds.

The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that the plane was a Yakovlev YAK-11, an aircraft used by the Soviet Air Force from 1947 until 1962, nicknamed "Czech Mate." It was reportedly being rebuilt in preparation for the upcoming reno air races.

Smoot was the only person on board.

"Sherman has been an avid air racer in the unlimited class for years, racing various aircraft, but most known for racing Czech Mate. Unlimited Air Racing in Reno is known as the Bad Boys of Air Racing as they are typically racing modified WWII aircraft. This year Sherman and Czech Mate were a favorite to win with the current listed field. Sherman is among the legends when it comes to Air Racing, never winning the gold, everyone was excited for this to be the year! For the last 4 years Sherman had raced a Sea Fury for another plane owner, and this year was to be the return of Czech mate," said photographer Curtis Noble, who photographed Smoot at a recent air show in Reno.

KCFD says the plane had, "some difficulty on takeoff," shortly before the crash.

Members of this community have been expressing their condolences across social media Friday afternoon.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.

"We are investigating the crash today of a Yakovlev YAK-11. Don't have many more verified facts to release at this time. A preliminary report will be published in 2-3 weeks that will provide some answers, but the probable cause will be issued at the end of the investigation, which could take a year or more," said Eric Weiss with the NTSB.


  1. So sad - right before Reno Air Races :( Godspeed and tailwind west, Good Sir

  2. Czech Mate, Sherm Smoot, veteran air racer, from newspaper

  3. Just seems like the other day when 'Warlock' bought the farm, and now Czech Mate... RIP

  4. I went and looked at this airplane when it was for sale several years ago. Had a 2800 P&W. The pilot claimed it was easier to fly than a 51. There was very little prop clearance. I don't believe you would have a chance if the engine quit. A 51 will at least flatten out some what after the engine quits. This thing looks like it would just drop.

  5. Fly the aircraft all the way into the crash, nose down, straight ahead. Never try to turn back to the airport.

  6. Mr. Hudson's description suggests a precautionary return was underway.

    "The plane, a Yakovlev Yak-11, took off out of Minter Field Airport around 10:50 a.m. for a test flight, according to Jonathan Hudson, general manager of the Minter Field Airport District."

    "(The pilot) noticed some low oil pressure, turned around to come back to the airport and didn't make it back," Hudson said Friday afternoon."


  7. Latest rumor, allegedly from ground crew.: airplane was at 1000' when low oil pressure was reported to ground crew. Airplane had apparently completed turnaround to runway 12 and was extending gear when a very loud bang was heard by the ground crew and the airplane pitched down steeply and crashed. That raised the question- with the engine seized and the prop in flat pitch is the airplane controllable in pitch.

    1. A seized prop is less drag than a windmilling prop and with enough speed anything will fly and I'm sure this highly experienced pilot new what that speed was. The loud bang and what it did is what needs to be investigated.

    2. Czech Mate was highly modified ,wings shortened and the air raider prop which probably acted like a airbrake when seized . Super sad outcome . I am proud to say I’ve got the pleasure to sit beside Sherman in the cockpit. Legend.

  8. Another good man gone forever.

  9. Did the Airplane hit Trees/Building/Power Lines on the way down, flip upside down, catch fire trapping Pilot inside or was it just a unsurvivable hard landing?

  10. Any photos of crashed airplane or where they took it?

  11. I think maybe the sentiment would be “a good man gone too soon”? All men die, good or bad, and it’s forever.

  12. Most recent information is that the crash site was approximately a 1/2 mile final for runway 12. A satellite view shows only farm fields and dirt roads for farm field access. Hard to see if there were any wires on the satellite view. Airplane was under control until the loud bang was heard then pitched steeply down.

  13. Initial frame of video shows a very steep pitch down. What would have caused that if prop was spinning?