Noted aerobatic pilot, Fred Cabanas died in a plane crash on January 15th, along with Mexican television host Jorge Lopez while generating footage for Lopez’s show whose title translates as “Extreme Adrenaline.” The site of the crash was a
private airstrip on the Caribbean island of Cozumel.
A fourth generation native of Key West, Florida fell in love with flying as a boy and at the age of 16 he had established himself as a “hangar bum” at Key West International Airport, trading airplanes washes for flight lessons.
Cabanas grew to be a Key West aviation legend who entertained hundreds of thousands around the world with his dare-devil aerobatics. He has won many awards at air shows over the years, performing in his Pitts S-2c, Waco, Piper Cub, P-51 Mustang and other warbirds and participated in the 2005 National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada as well as performing stunt flying for numerous movies, television shows and commercials.
He owned a business in Key West, Cabanas Aeronautics Unlimited, where he offered aerial tours of the Keys and aerobatic thrill rides as well as aircraft ferrying services. At the time of his death, Cabanas held an ATP, multi-engine rating, commercial land and seaplane privileges plus an A&P license and advanced ground instructor certificate. He was also an Aerobatic Competency Evaluator for ICAS as well as an EAA Warbird Evaluator. Over the course of his career Cabanas had accumulated over 24,000 hours total flight time and touched the lives of all who came in contact with him, including fellow aerobatic pilot Gary Ward who cites Cabanas as his inspiration and mentor.
The flags at Key West International Airport were lowered to half mast in tribute to Fred’s passing, he leaves behind his wife Susan and an adult son and daughter, both of whom are also pilots.
This is really terrible news. Having met the man at one of his world class shows, I can honestly say he was of the nicest and most uplifting emissaries the air show circuit has ever had. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the millions of fans he earned over the years.
At least now he can fly even higher…
It was a terrible tragedy and a loss of a great man and performer.
such a terrible loss
Such a horrible tragedy. Lost a true talent.
Such a tragic loss, Freddie let me fly with him in the Waco towing
banners over Key West. Also dropped flowers to a beach side service
for a friend of ours. I feel very honored to have known Fred for the few
short years I did. As an ex Navy pilot we had much to talk about. RIP
my friend. Art
I simply can’t believe that Fred died. I met this sunny Man at his home base – Key West, FL. Rest in Peace, Fred.
I’m an M.D. Have flown for many years but went into aerobatic flying because of Fred Cabanas. He gave me my initial lessons and his infectious enthusiasm for aerobatics has always stuck with me. He was a great pilot and a honest ethical human being. God Bless you Freddie. You are deeply missed. Our world needs more people like you, my friend.
My wife blessed me with a wonderful gift for my 40th birthday, driving me blind folded to an unknown destination.
When we arrived at the Key West Airport I was introduced to Fred Cabanas who my wife and Father in law said was one of the best aerobatic pilots.
Fred and I talked for a while, laughing a lot at his great sense of humor. He was a greart guy full of life. Then I asked him if he was going to take me up in the Waco that we were standing next to. He had a big wide smile and said no… follow me. He led me between a few planes snd way back and hidden away was this fast looking plane. He said you are going to go up in my aerobatic plane. Its a Pitts S-2C. Well i was excited and scared all at the ssme time. I flew in planes but nothing like this wild aerobatic plane before. Fred heard my story that I always wanted to fly in the military and one of my dreams was to fly vertical at take off at full throttle.
Well we got in this magnificent plane and off we went down the runway at probably full throttle and up we went full 90 degree vertical take off. It was the most fun I have ever had. The first half of his aerobatic turns were awesome, said he did hammerheads, double hammerheads, Cuban 8’s , spins. Stall snd then as my skin began to sweat with no AC, or Fan inside the massive amounts of turns got me to a point that i didn’t know if we were flying wings level or upside down. It was all a blur halfway through the ride. He says I have given you the same ride as i just did at the Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show. Now I understood why I felt the way I did.
When we landed I couldn’t walk straight and couldn’t believe that I survived and i didn’t throw up but it was a blast and so much fun.
I gave Fred praise for doing an exceptional job in taking that Pitts S-2C to its limits and handled that plane so well always in control.
I sure will miss his wide smile and great sense of humor and his awesome and so much fun aerobatic plane ride.
My condolences go out to his wife and 2 children who he spoke so proudly about.
May God bless you Fred with living out your dreams of flying in the heavens above.