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Gone West: Scotty Wilson

August 10, 2016 - EAA was devastated to learn last week that Scotty Wilson, EAA 572551, lost his life in the crash of the remarkable Bugatti 100P replica. Wilson, 66, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years before taking on the herculean task of re-creating the unusual late-1930s airplane starting several years ago.

Wilson was a regular visitor to EAA, spending several days here in the fall of 2009 studying and taking precise measurements of the original Bugatti 100P, which is on permanent display in the EAA AirVenture Museum. He returned several times, proudly displaying the then-unfinished replica during AirVenture, and educating and inspiring a packed house when he told the airplane’s story during our annual Wright Brothers Memorial Dinner in 2013.

As those familiar with the story know, the original airplane was never flown; Bugatti’s plans for its use to set speed records were derailed by the onset of World War II, and the airplane was set aside and largely forgotten. Wilson first learned of the airplane while training in the F-100 Super Sabre, when he came across a story in a 1973 issue of Air Progress. The sleek and mysterious 100P struck a chord, and, 35 years later, when he saw it in the museum, he knew he needed to re-create it. Wilson later said that he took on the project because he was “retired and looking for something to do rather than get old and fat and lose my mind.”

Seven years - and more than 10,000 man hours  after his first glimpse of the original, his team watched as Wilson made the triumphant first flight of the replica on August 19, 2015. Ever the engineer, Wilson downplayed the flight as “anticlimactic.” The second flight came in October of 2015, after which Wilson and his colleagues were focused on preparing the airplane for display in a museum in Great Britain. The accident, which is currently under investigation, occurred on August 6, 2016, on what was reportedly intended to be the aircraft’s final flight.

A statement on the Bugatti 100P project’s Facebook page read, “To all of the followers, friends and colleagues around the world who have blessed us with their warm friendship and good wishes over the years, it is with great sadness in our hearts that we can confirm the passing of our great leader and mentor Scotty Wilson early today in a tragic accident involving our beloved aircraft.”

In describing the airplane, Wilson quoted the legendary author-pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who defined perfection as the point at which “there is nothing left to take away.” To all of us in the EAA family, to those who followed Wilson’s passion project with inspired fascination, whether we knew him or not, his loss makes things seem that much less perfect; in taking Scotty Wilson, the world took away too much.

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