Faulty Weld Contributed to Wright ‘B’ Flyer Accident

Despite flaw, NTSB investigators blame pilots for fatal crash.

Silver Big

Silver Big

** Courtesy of Timothy R. Gaffney**

The NTSB has released the probable cause for the July 2011 crash of a Wright "B" Flyer replica in which two people died during a test flight in Springfield, Ohio. After examining the wreck of the experimental airplane, investigators found a crack in a weld on the left propeller shaft, which, according to the NTSB report, "would have prevented the left propeller from being driven by the engine." Further examination found that the weld was defective.

Witnesses to the accident heard changes in the engine rpm before the airplane spiraled to the ground.

While investigators included the weld issue as a contributing factor, the probable cause of the accident was listed as the “flight crew’s failure to maintain aircraft control following a partial loss of engine thrust during cruise flight.” The pilots who died in the accident, Don Gum of Beavercreek, Ohio, and Mitchell Cary of Yellow Springs, Ohio, were both commercial-rated pilots and had a total of more than 300 hours of combined flight time in the same make and model as the accident airplane, according to the Dayton Daily News. They were members of Wright “B” Flyer Inc, which has been using the airplanes to promote the aviation heritage of the Dayton area for more than 25 years.

Unlike the original Wright Flyer, which was controlled by wing warping and control levers, the Wright “B” Flyer has ailerons and a control wheel. A 225 hp Lycoming engine drives two wooden propellers, pushing the airplane to a cruise speed of 60 mph.