The pilot of a vintage Stearman biplane was miraculously uninjured after the plane he was flying clipped wires and crashed onto a county highway near the site of a local Rice Festival. The plane also hit a light post, as you’ll see in the accompanying video, before crashing spectacularly onto the roadway before the intersection where it got tripped up on the wires, cartwheeling and landing upside down next to the roadway.
You might find yourself asking the exact same question we asked: What in the name of vintage biplanes was going on there? Why was the plane flying so low around cars and people? How did it get so low? It looks like it was just taking off. Was it just taking off?
The answer to the last question, according to reports in local news, is remarkably, yes, he was just taking off. Is there a runway he just took off from? No! According to those same reports, the Stearman had been on display as part of the festival, and rather than tow the plane back to the airport, the pilot elected to fly it back by taking off on the roadway. Since it was local law enforcement that videoed the takeoff and because traffic had to be halted to allow the plane to takeoff unimpeded, it looks as though pilot had been cleared to use the roadway.
It’s not clear, however, how much of a takeoff run the Stearman had available, though the answer that springs to mind is, “Not enough!” And it’s hard to second-guess deck angle, but it’s even harder not to want to see an increase in the angle of attack as it’s approaching the intersection. Just tell us you weren’t unconsciously pulling back on the stick. We were!
The way it went down, and we watched this over and over, is that the plane hit the light at the end of a pole that extended onto the street. When it did, its nose lowered. It then went right through the power lines in the intersection, hit, cart-wheeled and came to rest on its back. It also barely missed a line of cars in the oncoming lane that were presumably waiting for the plane to clear the roadway before they proceeded.
It’s sad that such a beautiful airplane got wrecked. No word on if it’s totaled or not, but Stearmans in worse shape have been resurrected. But it’s great that neither the pilot nor any onlookers were injured—they brought the pilot to the hospital, but he had suffered no apparent battle damage. A strong airplane and dumb luck is our best guess as to why it wasn’t a lot worse.