Wright Flyer Replica Crashes





Wright Flyer Replica Crashes

By Derek Kaufman


Air Force crash rescue and safety personnel inspect the wreckage of a replica 1905 Wright Flyer III that crashed Oct. 1, 2009 on Huffman Prairie Flying Field at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Pilot and vintage aircraft builder Mark Dusenberry of Dennison, Ohio, was injured during the practice flight in preparation to celebrate the 104th Anniversary of Practical Flight.

October 3, 2009, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base , Ohio (AFNS)  An authentic replica of the 1905 Wright Flyer III crashed at the Huffman Prairie Flying Field here at approximately 9:30 a.m. Oct. 1. Vintage aircraft builder and pilot Mark Dusenberry, was flown by CareFlight helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton where his injuries were initially identified as serious.

Following the crash, Mr. Dusenberry was conscious and communicating his injuries to paramedics on scene, said Park Ranger Nicholas Georgeff with the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark and we all hope for his speedy recovery," said Col. Bradley Spacy, the 88th Air Base Wing commander.

Mr. Dusenberry, who is an engineer from Dennison, Ohio, was practicing for the 104th Anniversary of Practical Flight ceremony planned for next week. The flight is a re-enactment of a historic flight made by Wilbur Wright 104 years earlier. The bi-annual event is hosted by the National Park Service, National Aviation Heritage Alliance and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with the support of many partners.


As a result of the crash, the 104th Anniversary of Practical Flight ceremony and an associated "Pastries on the Prairie" commemorative gathering planned for Oct. 5 at Huffman Prairie Flying Field have both been cancelled. 

Huffman Prairie Flying Field is considered the world's first airport. It is on Air Force property just south of the main runway at Wright-Patterson AFB. The property is operated by the National Park Service to tell the story of the history of the Wright-Brothers in their quest to master powered flight, Ranger Georgeff said.

Mr. Dusenberry built the Wright Flyer III by hand to exacting specifications, after consulting the Wright Brothers' own notes and diaries. With the exception of a few modifications such as turnbuckles and the fabric used, his aircraft and catapult system virtually identical in every respect to the one designed by Wilbur and Orville Wright 104 years ago. The aircraft is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as experimental.

Now a national park, Huffman Prairie Flying Field is normally closed to flight activity, except during special commemorative observances and educational outreach events. The practice flights and planned re-enactment was accomplished with FAA and Air Force waivers.

Air Force safety, airfield operations and crash rescue personnel were on scene at the time of the crash and operational planning included rehearsals in the event of a crash, said Dave Egner, director of special operations with the 88th Operations Support Squadron at Wright-Patterson AFB.

Ranger Georgeff said Mr. Dusenberry made a "picture perfect" successful straight and level practice flight at 9 a.m. which lasted approximately 22 seconds. Launch for the second flight that commenced at 9:30 a.m. was normal, but the aircraft started to oscillate vertically -- a fairly common experience among early flights by the Wright Brothers -- then sharply pitched down from about 20 feet when it impacted the ground, Mr. Georgeff said. The aircraft was about 19 seconds into its second flight when it crashed.

Safety investigators with the FAA's Cincinnati Flight Standards District Office arrived on scene shortly after the crash and are investigating the cause.

Mr. Dusenberry, a licensed pilot, has made many dozens of successful flights in the Wright Flyer III, including a number of re-enactment events. He walked away uninjured from a minor crash Oct. 5, 2007, during a re-enactment at Huffman Prairie. At the time, he said "as you learn to fly the airplane there will be incidents and there will be accidents; some small, some larger."

Mr. Dusenberry then said he was passionate about his interest in reconstructing history and was privileged to be able to fly at the same place where the Wright Brothers perfected their craft.
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