Wright Model B accidently takes off!


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Luckily, this is is not the Wright Flyer that is scheduled to fly on the 100 year anniversary!

From http://www.timescommunity.com/site/tab2.cfm?newsid=8073544&BRD=2553&PAG=461&dept_id=506066&rfi=6

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By Bill McIntyre

Workers were struggling Tuesday night to dislodge a turn-of-the-century replica airplane stuck in a tree 30 feet above ground after the pilot crashed the night before.

Bethel's Ken Hyde, who builds exact replicas of Wright Brothers aircraft at his Discovery of Flight Foundation, was at the controls at the time of the accident.

"I was dodging trees and power lines trying to get back to the airport," he said.

The plane came to rest in the wooded backyard of Christopher and Joan Bonsignore's home at 9396 Donnybrook Drive, about a mile and half from the Warrenton Air Park.


Hyde and his associates were field testing the taxi capability of the two-seat Model B Wright airplane at the north end of Horse Feathers airfield early Monday evening.

A taxi test lets pilots try to maintain directional control and keep the craft going straight until it attains speed to take off.

Hyde explained that liftoff was never in the plan.

"It literally took a wrong turn," he said.

Hyde said the plane veered toward a ditch, fencing and some trees, and he worried it would flip. That's when he decided to escape a ground crash by going skyward.

"We managed to circle about a mile from the field trying to dodge trees," he said.

Hyde flew the aircraft in circles for more than 10 minutes without any means to contact his ground team. He struggled to control the aircraft, which can reach speeds of 45 mph.

But by the fourth turn Hyde's luck ran out and he finally directed the aircraft away from nearby homes as it started to tip on its right wing and head into the trees.

"The trees must have been growing taller and faster than I could climb," he laughed.

Hyde's associates raced to the crash site and local neighbors called for help. Hyde was pulled from the open-air craft and transported by helicopter to Inova-Fairfax hospital. He was treated for a broken right arm and several abrasions before being released.

"Either a tree or a component of the airplane hit my arm. I didn't remember hitting anything. I just remember something starting to hurt like the devil," he said.

Hyde expected to recover quickly. He couldn't estimate the total damage to the plane but was hopeful that the engine was still intact.

Recovering the flyer

As the odd-looking craft made of wood and cloth hung in the trees, significant damage to the right wing and cockpit area could be seen.

Greg Cone, one of Hyde's chief associates at the Discovery of Flight Foundation, said a system of power lifts and ropes would bring the fragile airplane back to the ground.

"We need to secure the plane and get it down safely without any more damage," he said.

Cone said the craft would be dismantled to help dislodge it from the trees.

"You can take the tail off and collapse the front. It actually folds. To get it out of the woods we'll take the wings off," he said.

Cone hoped to complete the job before daybreak on Wednesday.

A pair of Rappahannock County tree service companies were hired by the Discovery of Flight Foundation to help get the plane out of the tree.

Greg Williams, who operated a cherry picker to rig ropes and secure the plane, said it was the first time he had ever rescued an airplane from a tree. He said that cats, even monkeys, were more commonplace.

Williams' work was stalled for nearly an hour while workers scrambled to free up the heavy equipment after it sunk in the soft, rain-soaked ground.

Countdown stopped?

Hyde acknowledged that this was the unexpected first flight of the Model B aircraft. The veteran commercial airline pilot conceded that the sudden flight and his first-ever crash left him with mixed feelings.

"I know it flies but it's not as stable as I would like for it to be. It is repairable," he said.

Northrop Grumman donated funds to construct the Wright Model B project, which was intended for educational and promotional purposes.

The Model B was scheduled to be on display as the centerpiece of Northrop Grumman Corporation's exhibit at the Paris Air Show this June. But that is unlikely now.

The Model B construction and flight testing have also been the subject of a NOVA public television documentary called "Inventing the Flying Machine," that will air later this year.

Paula Apsell, executive producer of the program, said the crash wouldn't change their broadcast plans.

"This is simply one setback. We still plan to air the program in November or December," she said.

Hyde built an authentic reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer that will be flown on Dec. 17 in Kitty Hawk, N.C. as part of a centennial celebration of the first powered flight. He admitted that the Wrights had their share of crashes.

"This happened on a number of occasions with Orville and Wilbur," he said.

Nevertheless, Hyde was disappointed by the events.

"It wasn't the idea to bend the airplane, but we'll learn from this incident," he said.

Roger Jaynes, a spokesman for the Experimental Aircraft Association's Countdown to Kitty Hawk, said Hyde's crash won't slow down plans to reenact December's centennial anniversary of the Wrights' historical first flight.

"Ken's fine and we foresee that he will go on with his duties," he said.

Jaynes said the accident won't knock out Hyde from competing for one of the two slots available to pilot the Wright Flyer in Kitty Hawk during the historic reenactment.

Bill McIntyre may be reached at bmcintyre@timespapers.com.