A group of vintage aircraft pilots were promoting a new IMAX movie the best way possible -- by taking members of the media for a ride around Washington DC today.
Then one flipped on landing and the upcoming movie wasn't the story anymore.
A Washington Post reporter was on board the plane.
NPR's Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan was on another plane, but was not hurt.
Two questions, because I don't like to make assumptions and because curiosity is cool:
The calm and deliberate order "Get away from the airplane" came from the pilot?
Okay, it flipped and no person is hurt. What is the possible damage to the plane and how in heaven does one put it wheels down and wings up?
//"Get away from the airplane" came from the pilot?
Probably. That actually is item #1 in my prelight briefing for passengers. "If something happens and we make an emergency landing, your job is to get out, get as far away from the plane as possible, and don't worry about me."
Taildraggers, which this is -- the little wheel is in the back -- are EXTREMELY ground unstable. The most common description is it's like trying to ride a tricycle backwards (surely, you tried to do that when you were a kid).
How much damage? It's a tube-and-fabric plane, I believe so that's easily repairable. Prop strike will require a teardown of the engine. That won't buff out.
It sounds like the pilot giving the order. This is just basic prudence in case there's a fuel leak.
The Stearman is a very robust airframe. I'd imagine the damage is surprisingly minor. The engine will have to be disassembled and checked for damage, however, due to the propeller striking pavement.
As to how the airplane ended up flipping, I'd have to leave that speculation to a pilot with more time in tailwheel aircraft.
It's odd how thin the margin is between something going bad and something almost going bad can be.
//The most common description is it's like trying to ride a tricycle backwards
That makes me wonder about the wisdom of these things:
I think it all depends on where the center of gravity is.
Stearmans were designed for training, so they tend to be robust. From the pics, it doesn't look like much is crumpled when its laying on its back.
For flipping it, its not necessarily as hard as one might think. My hours (now 15 years out of date) are in a citabria, which is a tailwheel plane. I was trained to be very aware of stick position & relative wind. There's not a lot of weight on the tail wheel, so if you have a tailwind, elevator up & hit the brakes, its conceivable the tail could be lifted enough for the wind to take you over. Having said that, I have no idea how this particular accident happened.
"That makes me wonder about the wisdom of these things"
"I think it all depends on where the center of gravity is."
Partly. It has to do with the center of gravity relative to the wheels that steer. A tricycle going forward is relatively stable, the center of gravity being ahead of the fixed wheels & behind the wheel that steers or swivels. A tailwheel aircraft is like the 'tricycle going backwards', with the fixed wheels up front & the swiveling / steering wheel in back.
What happens is when you set the center of gravity into motion, it wants to keep going the same way. So when your CG is behind the fixed wheels, if it starts moving sideways relative to the fixed direction the wheels want to go, intertia can take over, sending the CG past the fixed wheels. In taildragger talk this is called a 'ground loop'. So for the thing at the gizmag link, its not a concern, as the front wheels are the steering wheels, while the single rear wheel is fixed. You can see this in any normal car by comparing the relative stability when driving in reverse to driving forwards. Note that it becomes very easy to lose control of the car going in reverse at relatively low speeds, while driving forwards cars are stable up to & past freeway speeds.