Two men were killed on Saturday when they made a forced landing in a replica Wright Model B Flyer in a rural Ohio field.
The men were conducting a test flight in the replica, known as the “Silver Bird,” when they made a radio call from the air alerting authorities about their impending forced landing.
According to The Dayton Daily News, witnesses heard the airplane sputtering, as well as a loud pop, before it went down approximately 5 miles south of Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, where it had taken off earlier. Authorities said the two pilots, Mitchell Cary, 64, and Don Gum, 73, were killed on impact.
Cary and Gum were volunteer pilots and trustees at the Dayton-based non-profit Wright “B” Flyer Inc., an organization that strives to raise awareness of the rich aviation history of the Wright Brothers and Dayton, Ohio, where Orville and Wilbur set up shop for their first production aircraft as well as their flight school.
“Mitch and Don were highly competent pilots with extensive experience flying Wright “B” Flyer’s airplanes and other experimental aircraft,” said Phil Beaudoin, president of Wright “B” Flyer Inc., in a recent press release. “They made enormous contributions to our organization and to the aviation heritage community.”
An all-volunteer crew first began work on the Silver Bird in 2007, and Don Gum was one of the pilots at the controls when the replica, named for its silver paint job, made its first formal test flight in June. Since that first flight, the airplane had accumulated a total of approximately 25 “trouble-free” hours of flight time leading up to Saturday’s accident.
The Silver Bird was equipped with modern materials, including a 205 horsepower Lycoming piston engine. The airplane had received an airworthiness certificate in the experimental category from the FAA in 2010. Yet while the aircraft was built with contemporary parts, it replicated a drive system used by the original Wright B Flyer 100 years ago, in which chains worked to move the aircraft’s two propellers.
Saturday’s accident is one of at least five crashes of Wright brother replicas or reproductions to have taken place within the past decade.