Airwolf star Jan-Michael Vincent dies aged 73

Actor Jan-Michael Vincent, who was best known for starring in 1980s TV series Airwolf, has died at the age of 73.

A death certificate shows that Vincent died of cardiac arrest on February 10 in a North Carolina hospital.

Born in 1945 in Denver, Colorado, Vincent starred in films such as The Mechanic in 1972 and Hooper in 1978, in which he played a stuntman opposite Burt Reynolds.

He also starred in the 1983 television mini-series Winds Of War as the love interest of a character played by Ali MacGraw, and earned a Golden Globe nomination.

In a 1984 interview, Vincent described his passion for being on the water. He said he spent three months after wrapping up Winds Of War sailing the Caribbean. He also said he was a long-time surfer.

“I was a travelling surfer for years. … I’ve been all over the world surfing,” he said. “I’ll be 40 in July and I still like to surf.”

Perhaps 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.

Obit Jan-Michael Vincent
Jan-Michael Vincent starred in Airwolf in the 1980s (Wally Fong/AP)

In the AP interview, he described trying to find the right way to loosen the character up.

“The character is stiff,” he says, “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.”

However, his surfer-like demeanour 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 programme.

He was also charged over 1980s pub 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 Orange County, California, after he admitted to violating his probation by appearing drunk in public and assaulting his then girlfriend.