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Stearmans Herald Rare Visit by GA to Reagan National Airport

Boeing Model 75 Slow-Motion Flip on Landing Causes Sensation

By Mark Kelly, EAA 608896, for e-Hotline

Stearman flip
A Stearman piloted by Mike Truschel flipped over on the landing roll-out.  The pilot and passenger were not hurt.

The Stearman flight parked at Signature Flight Support which only services a few government aircraft that also fit in the general aviation category.

A view of the Stearman flight as it taxis for takeoff at DCA. A rare sight indeed to see general aviation aircraft operating at Reagan National Aiport.  Photos by Mark Kelly

June 10, 2010 — A glorious morning in the Washington DC area was the backdrop for a rare flight of vintage Boeing Stearmans that flew from nearby Manassas Regional Airport (KHEF) to Ronald Reagan National Airport (KDCA). The flight of eight brightly colored open cockpit bi-planes was part of a kick off for the world premier of the IMAX film, Legends of Flight at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

It seemed that the gods and the government were cooperating on this day and that the ghost of 9/11 would finally be banished from DCA, at least long enough to allow the group of Stearmans to land. The early 40's era Stearmans were to make their grand entrance in front of the historic Terminal A building erected in 1941, in what is believed to have been the first general aviation arrival at DCA post 9/11. Indeed, only through the extraordinary efforts of the event’s promoter Dan McCue, and the hard work and creativity of people at the TSA, FAA, and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority had the event become possible.

Members of the press, invited guests, dignitaries, TSA personnel, and FAA and other DCA Airport employees lined up against the big windows of Terminal Building A, cameras in hand and smiles on their faces awaiting the arrival. The first Stearman landed on DCA’s Runway 10 to everyone’s delight. Then the unthinkable happened. The second Stearman touched down just past the threshold and then abruptly tumbled tail over nose landing on its back. The pilot, Mike Truschel, and the passenger Adrian Halsey III from the Washington Post were apparently unhurt but the plane suffered substantial damage.

Before they departed Mr. Halsey had said that there was no real story for the Washington Post but that he had been persuaded to show up by Mr. McCue. He jokingly said that the last event Mr. McCue had arranged for him was a round the world sailboat trip and that the crew had mutinied. Mr. Halsey filmed the landing and, consummate reporter that he is, he managed to keep his camera running throughout the entire accident. His video has quickly become viral (see below).  Had Mr. Halsey not shown up for the event, I would have been riding with Mike Truschel. Perhaps the extra few pounds I have on Mr. Halsey could have moved the CG further aft and better anchored the airplane. We shall never know.
The film, which features stunning clips of historic airplanes including the Stearman, Super Constellation, Scheckter Glider, Harrier Jump  Jet,  Airbus 380, and Boeing 787, is billed as the first ever IMAX3-D film about aviation history. The Stearmans were piloted by five current or retired US Airways captains: Ron Gore, Jack Roethlisberger, Charlie Lines, Cam Youree, and John Lebbon, all from the Pittsburgh area, and three pilots from the Flying Circus Airshow in Bealeton, Virginia: John D. King, Mike Truschel, and Dave Brown. 

Legends of Flight is a pure unmitigated delight for any airplane lover. The beautifully rendered 3-D images of airplanes and birds zoom in and out of the screen against breathtaking scenery. The 3-D bespectacled audience ooohed and ahhhed at the realism and found themselves ducking out of the way at times. The film is aimed at inspiring children to study science and engineering. While the airplane footage is truly awesome, the people in the film bring home the message.

Perhaps most inspiring is the film’s narrator, Boeing’s chief test pilot Mike Carriker. As we watched images of kids with their noses pressed up against the windows of an old airliner, Mike took us back to his earliest aviation memory of when he was a little kid looking out the window of a DC-7. At that moment he had a dream and a vision of himself. He knew he wanted to have something to do with airplanes for the rest of his life. It was that dream that carried him forward through all the hard science and math classes so he could gain a deeper understanding of aviation, and ultimately, help to make the Boeing 787 Dreamliner a reality. 

If the excitement generated in the kids invited to the premier from Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS)² - Howard University, and the excellent questions they asked afterwards are any indication, the movie may just work.

In-Cockpit Video from Adrian Halsey III

CNN Video of the Landing

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