The star aerobatics performer died along with the son of his partner in the crash of a homebuilt. A friend offers a touching tribute. Plus, how you can help.
By Plane & Pilot
Published January 28, 2020
The news this week has been dominated by another tragic crash, but the airshow world has been grieving the loss of two star performers, Red Bull airshow pilot Steve Andelin in Guatemala in a crash that killed two others on the ground, and the one that claimed the life of Mark “Novo” Nowosielski, one of the two stars of Twin Tigers, one of the hottest acts in the airshow world today. Tragically, also killed in that crash was 13-year-old Nathan Sorenson, the son of Nowosielski’s flying partner Mark Sorenson. The crash took place at a private airstrip in Senoia, Georgia, in a Mustang II, a small amateur-built plane that Nowosielski had reportedly just purchased recently. Besides his airshow act, Novo was a pilot for Southwest Airlines.
Allison Hoyt, a friend of Nowosielski, wrote a tribute to him that we found deeply moving, and she has agreed to let us share it with our readers. Here it is:
“I first met Mark Nowosielski at IAC Nationals in 2016, the last year they were ever held in Texas. I’m something of an airshow/aerobatics junkie, and to discover that the best in the US were throwing down practically in my own backyard was a dream come true. Just before the final round of advanced competition, Sammy Mason couldn’t get his Pitts started, and while several of us were frantically trying to get his mag retimed, Mark was busy offering Sam the use of his Edge 540. It was a remarkably kind gesture that left a lasting impression of him as a generous person, one that’s only been confirmed by the outpouring of grief since the news of his passing broke.
Mark holds the distinction of flying one of only two airshow acts that has ever made me cry, and the only one that has ever made me continue to cry on repeated viewings. The Twin Tigers’ night show was fantastically innovative, incredibly challenging, and exceptionally exuberant. When I talked about the show, I told people to do whatever they needed to do to experience it for themselves, for no better reason than simply that it existed at all.
An old friend of mine, Ashlee Smith, is a Southwest Airlines multimedia specialist, and I knew she had been wanting to shoot a feature on an airshow pilot who flew for Southwest for some time. When the Tigers won the 2019 Bill Barber award, it was then that I realized that *both* Marks flew for Southwest, and that they would be the perfect subjects for such a project. She pitched the story to her higher-ups, and got approval to come out to Oshkosh, interview the Marks, and film the night show. Ashlee let me tag along as a second camera operator, which is how I wound up with show center flightline access to one of the greatest airshow acts I have ever seen.
I love watching airshow pilots prepare for their performances. The rituals, the walkthroughs, the quiet moments of introspection as they ready themselves for daring feats of flight. I was lucky, being so close to the action, to catch just this little snippet of a man and his machine, going through a well-rehearsed routine, having no knowledge, of course, that this would be the last time I would ever see him fly.
Though I was technically working throughout his performance, and very nervous about getting it right for Ashlee’s sake, I still got choked up, as I had before, at the apex of Mark’s act, watching him dance around the sky to the soaring refrain, “Come alive, come alive! Go and light your light, let it burn so bright!”
It was a strange mixture of jealousy and joy, witnessing a flight so exhilarating you couldn’t help but wish you were up there too, tumbling across the night sky. And I think that was all Mark ever wanted as an airshow pilot: to fly so jubilantly that everyone watching would find themselves yearning to take to the air.
After the show, Mark graciously invited me back to the team’s campsite, and I will treasure that evening I spent with the Marks and the extended Sorenson family for as long as I love aviation. Blue skies to Mark and Nathan, and my deepest condolences and most fervent prayers to the loved ones they left behind.”
If you’d like to contribute to a fund for Mark and Nathan’s families, friends have set up a GoFundMe page.