Jan-Michael Vincent: Airwolf and Big Wednesday actor dies, aged 73

Actor known for string of roles in 1970s and 80s died in February but not revealed until now

Actor Jan-Michael Vincent, best known for his role as a pilot on 1980s TV series Airwolf, has died, aged 73.

According to his death certificate, obtained by TMZ, Vincent died of cardiac arrest on 10 February in a North Carolina hospital but his death was only reported on Friday by TMZ.


Jan-Michael Vincent with Kim Basinger in Hard Country. 

Vincent played a stuntman opposite Burt Reynolds in 1978’s Hooper, and starred in renowned surfer film Big Wednesday (1978) and alongside Kim Basinger in Hard Country (1981). He earned Golden Globe nominations for his roles in Going Home (1971) and 1983 television mini-series Winds of War.

But his best-known role was in the television action-adventure series Airwolf, which lasted for several seasons after launching in 1984. Vincent played Stringfellow Hawke, a rugged pilot who could pull off aerobatic crime-fighting manoeuvres in an advanced helicopter – but also play the cello.

“The character is stiff,” Vincent once said in an interview, “but as we’ve gone along we’ve been able to loosen him some. Now you’ll sometimes see him crack a smile and say something funny. Even Clint Eastwood is mellowing, although I’ll never be Burt Reynolds.”


Jan-Michael Vincent with William Katt and Gary Busey in Big Wednesday.

His surfer-like demeanour, however, was overshadowed at times by his troubled personal life.

He pleaded guilty in 1997 to a drink-driving accident that left him with a broken neck and was sentenced to a rehab program. He was also charged over 1980s bar room brawls, receiving probation in one and an acquittal in another. In a separate case, he was acquitted in 1986 of hitting a woman.

He was sentenced to 60 days in jail in 2000 in California after he admitted to violating his probation by appearing drunk in public and assaulting his then-girlfriend.

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