The tens of thousands of fans of the turbine-powered super STOL Draco can breathe a big sigh of relief. Mike Patey, who crashed the bright red taildragger on departure after the Stihl National Championship Air Races in Reno this fall, has announced that he is working on a major restoration of the airplane. Patey initially thought the airplane was a total loss.
The PZL-104 Wilga was designed and originally manufactured by Polish PZL Warszawa-Okecie, with a production run from 1962 through 2006. During the last few years of production, EADS (now Airbus military) produced the airplane. Through the years, the airplane has been flown with a variety of radial and piston engines ranging in power from 220 to 300 horsepower.
Draco, however, was a completely different animal. Patey had modified the wings, ailerons, flaps, rudder, elevator and landing gear to make the airplane a highly efficient backcountry beast. He attached a 680-shaft horsepower Pratt & Whitney PT6A engine to the airframe, making Draco unbeatable in STOL competitions in Valdez, Alaska, and the High Sierra Fly-In.
Patey crashed his airplane after an attempted crosswind takeoff at the Reno/Stead Airport. Draco ended up crunched in the dirt north of Runway 8 and appeared to be a total loss.
But the unique Wilga has now been disassembled and brought back to Patey’s hangar. While he’s working on other projects as well, he now promises to bring Draco back with “more power, more range, more speed, more climb, more wing, more payload, lower drag, better suspension, shorter takeoff and shorter landing.” We can’t wait to see and hear Draco fly again.