Transcontinental Open Biplane Flight Cut Short by Crash

Tracy Curtis-Taylor and her passengers survive as Spirit of Artemis crash lands in Arizona.

Spirit of Artemis
The Boeing Stearman biplane Spirit of Artemis crashed last week in the Arizona desert. Thankfully pilot Tracy Curtis-Taylor and her passenger are OK.Facebook/Tracy Curtis-Taylor

Spirit of Artemis, a Boeing Stearman biplane piloted by Tracy Curtis-Taylor, who was using the airplane to retrace old airmail routes across the United States, crashed in Arizona last week. Fortunately, Curtis-Taylor and her passenger, Ewald Gritsch, both walked away from the accident, but the airplane is in need of major repair.

In her own newsletter, Curtis-Taylor reported that the airplane suffered a partial power loss shortly after lifting off from the runway at the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport in Winslow, Arizona, which sits at nearly 5,000 feet. Curtis-Taylor had no choice but to land on the desert floor. About 20 feet after touching down, “the right wheel struck a dense sage root mound, which tore off the right landing gear and threw the plane onto its left wing. It then cartwheeled tail over the nose in a cloud of sand and dust,” Curtis-Taylor wrote.

Curtis-Taylor described the damage to the airplane as "extensive," and, while she was offered another Stearman to complete her flight this summer, she is committed to continuing in Spirit of Artemis. In 2012 and 2013, Curtis-Taylor flew the open cockpit biplane through 15 African countries, covering more than 10,800 nm from Cape Town, South Africa, to Goodwood in Great Britain. From there, she flew through Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. She completed that flight, which covered about 11,300 nm, in Sydney, Australia, in January.

Until the unfortunate incident in Arizona, Curtis-Taylor had flown along the West Coast from Seattle to Santa Monica before she started heading east.