Officials probe vintage plane crash at Reagan National Airport

By Stephanie Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Federal officials are investigating why a vintage plane flipped over at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday morning, suffering some damage but not injuring the pilot or the Washington Post reporter inside.

The Boeing Stearman PT-17, a 1943 biplane built for World War II training, turned over as it was landing on the airport's main runway just after 10 a.m. The brightly colored plane, nicknamed the "Yellow Mistress," was the second of eight Stearmans descending. The planes were publicizing the premiere of the 3-D IMAX film "Legends of Flight," held Tuesday night at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Flying in from Manassas, the two-seater touched down at National and briefly rolled at 70 mph before flipping on its back, said Deborah Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, at a news conference Tuesday.

Both the pilot and The Post's transportation reporter, Ashley Halsey III, appeared to be unharmed.

The accident bent and curled two of the propeller's blades, and it damaged the plane's tail, rudder, vertical stabilizer, right wing and part of the engine, Hersman said. The NTSB did not have an estimate of the damage.

The agency had not determined the cause of the accident as of Tuesday afternoon. Robert Benzon, a senior air safety investigator, is leading the probe.

"We're looking at any limitations or whether winds have affected the accident," Hersman said.

The plane is licensed to Michael A. Truschel of Nokesville, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. The pilot has logged 800 hours of flight time, 180 of them in Stearman planes, said Tom Haueter, director of the NTSB's Office of Aviation Safety and a pilot who has flown Stearmans.

Two thousand of the planes are in operation, Haueter said.

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