Draco Lost in Takeoff Accident

The popular bright-red turbine-powered Wilga was totaled, but the pilot and passengers walked away unharmed.

The stunning super STOL favorite, Draco, was totaled in a takeoff accident this week as owner Mike Patey attempted to leave Reno-Stead after the National Championship Air Races.

Patey, the man behind the incredible turbine powered Wilga, didn't mince words when he described the accident that destroyed his beloved airplane. He talked about how he had several opportunities to choose another runway or abort the takeoff before it ended in disaster, but he made the decision to go on a runway with a strong, gusty crosswind. "I make no excuses," he said. "Pilot error, pilot error, pilot error. This is going to haunt me for a long time."

Patey described how the crosswind lifted his wing and the fuselage like a kite. “I was a big, giant kite and I had no control left,” Patey said. The video above shows Patey’s discussion about what happened and a clip from the takeoff that shows the left wing lift up enough to scrape the right wing. The plane then flips in the other direction and crushes the left wing. The mangled remains of the stunning airplane can be seen in the dirt along the runway as first responders secure the area. Patey, his wife and another passenger walked away unscathed.

Draco has stunned short takeoff and landing enthusiasts around the country with its outstanding STOL capabilities. Patey competed in the Valdez STOL Competition this summer and stunned the spectators when he made Draco take off in 78 feet and land in just 121 feet. As the only turbine competitor, powered by a Pratt & Whitney engine limited to 680 shaft horsepower, Draco had no competition in its class; but it's stunning to note that the airplane beat out the winner in the Bush Plane category—a PA-18 that took off in 78 feet and landed in 123 feet.

Patey also won the STOL Drag competition at the High Sierra Fly-In last fall. Draco will surely be missed at the event in October.