Featured Airplane Suffers Severe Damage in Emergency Landing
December 13, 2007 — Last week in EAA's member newsletter e-Hotline, we featured a photo of Mary and Bob Hanson standing proudly in front of their recently completed re-creation of a 1929 Alexander Bullet airplane. That very day (Thursday, December 6), Mary was involved in an emergency-landing incident with the airplane in Arizona. Thankfully, she suffered only a few bumps and bruises. The airplane, however, did not fare as well. "A total write-off," Bob said.
The plane flew flawlessly the day before during its first "public flight" and had, in fact, logged around 22 flight hours since November 1-about half by the test pilot and half by Mary. On Thursday morning (December 6), Mary was flying at about 5,500 feet MSL over a rural area well east of the Marana Regional Airport - where the Bullet had been temporarily based for the duration of the 25-hour flight test program - when the engine just stopped.
"I did attempt to restart, and thought maybe I could make a private (La Cholla) airpark, but that wasn't possible," Mary explained. She quickly determined there were three options: "Tangerine Road was wide enough, but had too much traffic. Moore road was directly underneath the airplane, but as I got down that wasn't suitable because of power lines." She ultimately decided on an empty north-south road, which was also heading into the wind.
But the Bullet's 38-and-a-half-foot wingspan was wider than the road, and its left wing tip caught a Palo Verde tree and a Saguaro cactus. "That ripped the left wing off and swung me around and broke the other wing off. But from the firewall to the back door there was no damage to the cockpit or fuselage at all," Mary said. She credits her decision to install custom built Tuf-Tow, Inc. shoulder harness restraints with saving her from a serious injury.
"I'm going to be the poster child for shoulder harness restraints," she said.
After closing valves and shutting off switches, Mary exited the airplane through the cabin door and called Bob on her cell phone.
A woman had seen the aircraft go down and was soon on the scene. "She asked if I was ok, and I said, 'No,' not meaning that physically I wasn't ok but that I had just wrecked my airplane." After an examination onsite by paramedics and later at the hospital, Mary was released to go home. The NTSB moved the airplane to Scottsdale for further investigation.
The Hansons will take some time to decide where the Bullet "saga" will go from here. For the time being, Mary says she'll help Bob complete his Curtiss P-6E "Hawk" replica project, which he's put on the back burner the past three years as the couple finished the Bullet. "Something to do" she said.
Bob is very grateful of the outcome. "Obviously, Mary is very disappointed about what happened, but we are all delighted she came out of this experience pretty much unscathed-the final outcome could have been much, much worse."