Vintage plane flips at DC’s Reagan National Airport, runway temporarily closed, no injuries

By Matthew Barakat, AP
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vintage plane flips on landing at Reagan Airport

ARLINGTON, Va. — A World War II-era biplane flying into Reagan National Airport to promote a film premiere flipped over Tuesday during its landing, temporarily closing the airport’s main runway. No one was injured.

The 1943 Boeing Stearman PT-17 was one of eight vintage planes that flew into Reagan to promote the opening of the 3-D film “Legends of Flight” at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

The pilot and one passenger, Washington Post transportation reporter Ashley Halsey III, were on board when the accident occurred shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Halsey told WJLA-TV in Washington that the plane flipped forward and “I could hear the propeller crunch as it hit the tarmac. … We were hanging upside down on our shoulder harnesses.”

The cause was being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Doug Freeman, a spokesman for the film, it was believed that the plane called the Yellow Mistress “picked up more of a crosswind than was expected” and overturned.

The pilot told investigators that he touched down and was traveling about 70 mph when he tapped the brakes and the plane flipped over, said Deborah A.P. Hersman, the NTSB chairwoman.

Tom Haueter, director of the NTSB’s aviation safety office and an experienced pilot on such aircraft, was watching the landings with a binocular from his office across the river in Washington.

He said the Stearman craft sometimes have problems with fishtail-like motion after landing, but flipping over its nose is unusual. Several thousand of the aircraft remain in use.

FAA records show the plane is registered to Michael Truschel of Nokesville, Va. Truschel did not return a call to his cell phone Tuesday. The NTSB declined to identify the pilot.

No other planes were involved, but airport officials closed the runway for about 90 minutes to remove the plane with a crane.

Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko and Sarah Brumfield in Washington and Ben Nuckols in Baltimore contributed to this report.

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