FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Scottsdale FSDO-07
NTSB Identification: WPR16LA106
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 11, 2016 in Winslow, AZ
Aircraft: BOEING B75N1, registration: N56200
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On May 11, 2016, about 1710 mountain standard time, a Boeing B75N1, N56200, was substantially damaged during a forced landing at the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport (INW), Winslow, Arizona. The airplane was registered to 3G Classic Aviation LLC., and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot and her passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The cross-country flight was originating at the time of the accident with an intended destination of Phoenix, Arizona.
The pilot reported that during takeoff from runway 29, as the airplane ascended to about 30 to 50 feet above the ground, the engine began to lose RPM. The pilot initiated a left turn to avoid power lines and subsequently landed off airport. During the landing roll, the right main landing gear sunk into the ground and the airplane cartwheeled. The pilot reported that all four wings, tail, and fuselage were structurally damaged.
The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.
After Arizona desert crash, critics of British pilot say they want the truth behind famous flights
Eleven-thousand kilometres in 32 legs over six weeks, alone in an open cockpit plane.
Alone. The word is the backdrop of a presentation delivered by British biplane pilot Tracey Curtis-Taylor at speaking engagements around the world. It is the key word in articles written about her in dozens of newspapers and magazines. It is the basis for the image the 54-year-old has constructed of herself: a lone pioneer, following the winds of great female pilots like Amelia Earhart, Amy Johnson, and Mary Heath, who took tremendous risks flying solo over long distances.
But last week, when Curtis-Taylor’s plane crashed in the Arizona desert, the name of her camera-shy co-pilot, Ewald Gritsch, surfaced online and reignited a debate that has been going on in the general aviation community for years. Can the self-described “Bird in a Biplane,” famous for her solo flights across continents, continue to enjoy lucrative sponsorship and media attention when the journeys are flown with an experienced pilot in the front seat?
This is the question being asked by Curtis-Taylor’s former logistics manager Sam Rutherford, who was with her for her entire journey from Capetown to the U.K. in 2013. He and a film crew flew in a chase plane next to Curtis-Taylor.
After Curtis-Taylor recently crashed in the Arizona desert, she released a statement on Facebook saying that she and Ewald Gritsch, who was with her in the plane, were not injured. The U.S. flight was the final portion of a trip around the world in a vintage biplane, an aircraft similar to the small crop duster in the Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest. Previous trips took her from Cape Town to Great Britain, and then on to Australia.
According to Rutherford, when the flight across Africa was being planned, Curtis-Taylor told him that it would be a solo trip.
“The film crew, sponsors, the press — everyone — thought she would be doing it solo,” he said in an interview. “At no stage did anyone say there would be anyone else in the aircraft.”
Rutherford, who runs a company that helps photographers and film crews plan trips around the world was pleased with the outcome of the intercontinental trip, but became concerned after he saw Curtis-Taylor telling crowds of people that she flies solo. He was also concerned about how a BBC documentary, The Aviatrix, depicted the journey.
“Ten thousand miles, with no modern technology — just a joystick and pedals,” the narrator claims in the film.
This too is a problem to Rutherford, who says that the plane was equipped with the latest navigation computers and GPS.
During a recent speech at the Seattle Museum of Flight, Curtis-Taylor stood in front of a backdrop which claims she was alone in the plane during the Africa trip. Rutherford says it is just the latest in a series of presentations given by the pilot that allegedly exaggerate the truth, and the results have been lucrative.
“It suits the film crew and sponsors very neatly to have this done as a lone, solo female pilot,” he said. “That sells. That has value. If someone climbs Mount Everest alone, it’s a bigger deal than if they do it with a team.”
In aviation, the designation of a solo flight is not insignificant. Completing a long-distance flight solo is a much bigger feat than having a co-pilot. In most countries, pilots-in-training have to complete a minimum number of solo flight hours to earn a license. Flights completed alone also conform more to the image of the early pioneers of aviation, who in many cases became known for their solo flights.
The value of Curtis-Taylor’s image has drawn the attention of major sponsors like Boeing, whose logo appears on the side of the Stearman biplane. The plane is called the Spirit of Artemis, named after multi-billion dollar firm Artemis Investment Management.
Boeing and Artemis Investments are mentioned in nearly all of Curtis-Taylor’s statements on Facebook. Even after the recent crash, the pilot stressed the importance of Boeing in providing support, turning the close call into a powerful public relations statement. It is not clear in the Facebook post exactly what kind of support the sponsors provided after the crash, except that someone offered a replacement plane to continue the journey.
Long, intercontinental biplane trips can cost over $500,000, including fuel, logistics, and the cost to rent the aircraft.
Curtis-Taylor declined the offer of a new plane, noting how important it is for 3G Classic Aviation, another sponsor, to repair the biplane. That same company is owned by Ewald Gritsch, the mysterious co-pilot who provided the plane for the transcontinental trip.
According to Rutherford, the director of Artemis flew to Kenya a third of the way through the Africa trip, and instructed Curtis-Taylor to stop describing her trip as solo. Instead, Curtis-Taylor and the film crew were allegedly told to stress that the flight was following the journey of Lady Mary Heath, who flew across Africa in the 1920s.
“It shifted from ‘I’m doing this solo’ to ‘I’m following Lady Heath’s solo flight,'” he said. “But that still suggests it was a solo flight. It gave them deniability later, and the same language was used in the Australia trip.”
Curtis-Taylor’s website claims that the U.S. trip is the final leg of the pilot’s circumnavigation of the world. Rutherford questions this too, saying that oceanic trips will not be included.
“The aircraft and she will go around the world,” he said. “For large parts of it though, the plane will be in a container on a ship, and she’ll be on British Airways.”
But not everyone in the aviation community has been receptive to Rutherford’s criticism. In a popular online aviation forum, dozens of anonymous users have come to Curtis-Taylor’s defense, arguing that her critics are trying to attack a woman in aviation, an industry dominated by men.
“I was wondering how long it would take for some cynical, tall-poppy knocking, armchair expert to denigrate the effort,” one user wrote. “So instead of bitching, why don’t you get up and have a go yourself?”
Others noted that intercontinental flights in biplanes are commonplace, and that Curtis-Taylor is being given disproportionate attention.
Mike Flynn, a pilot and former journalist who is active in the general aviation community, says that critics are not trying to hack down a tall poppy.
“It’s all about money and connections,” he said in an interview. “Tracey is well-connected with British royalty. It’s why she’s taken photos with Prince Michael, and why she’s up for the Order of the British Empire.”
Flynn has also questioned awards presented to Curtis-Taylor by the Honourable Company of Air Pilots and the Light Aircraft Association.
“Her connection with Boeing comes through her past relationship with Robert Marshall who runs Marshall Aerospace in the U.K. He is involved in the Air League who gave her a recent award,” he said.
Flynn’s main concern is that the awards, and sponsorship granted to Curtis-Taylor have cut into the opportunity that could otherwise go to female pilots who are eager to make similar trips, but who do not have the same opportunities and financial relationships to get off the ground.
“Amanda Harrison was planning to do this,” Flynn explained. “And I think she gave up because of the publicity Tracey got. She was going to do it in a Tiger Moth.”
Harrison, who planned to fly from the U.K. to Australia in 2015, says that she initially thought that the flight could be done without wealthy connections.
“I read about all these amazing pioneers in aviation and they where all rich, until I read about Amy Johnson and she was a normal person who needed a job to pay for her flying,” she said. “So as soon as I read about her I knew I could do it if she had done it without having a fortune.”
But a few months before Harrison’s flight, Tracey Curtis-Taylor announced that she would be doing the U.K. to Australia trip, and arrived in Sydney a few weeks after Harrison was scheduled to leave. Harrison lost funding from her own sponsors, and cancelled the trip.
When asked about why some trips are successful and others are not, Harrison replied: “Lets say that some people develop a particularly close network of high net worth men who seem happy to help fund her adventures.”
Tracey Curtis-Taylor and Ewald Gritsch did not initially reply to requests for interviews. They have since declined to go on the record to address criticisms.
Story, comments and photo gallery: http://news.nationalpost.com