Updated: 11:43 p.m. Saturday, July 30, 2011 | Posted: 6:04 p.m. Saturday, July 30, 2011

2 killed in Wright replica plane crash

Victims were veteran pilots, volunteers with Wright "B" Flyer Inc.


Pilots’ lives are celebrated photo
Don Gum (center) was one of the pilots who was killed after the Wright 'B' Flyer Silver Bird crashed in a field about two miles west of 7391 Pitchin Road.
Pilots’ lives are celebrated photo
Mitchell Cary was a retired United States Air Force test pilot who worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a civilian.
Pilots’ lives are celebrated photo
At 10:56 Saturday, July 30, 2011 the Ohio State Highway patrol received a call by a witness who saw a plane flying low and didn't come back up. They responded to find two adults had died in the crash. The plane crashed about 2 miles west of 7391 S. Pitchin Road in a muddy field. All-terrain and 4-wheel drive vehicles were the only ones that could make it out to scene. SGT. Bryan Cook of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Springfield Post could not confirm it was a Wright B Flyer. Coroner and FAA are en route. Green Twp/Husted FD and Ohio State Highway patrol responded to scene.

By Mark Gokavi

GREEN TWP., Clark County — Two local pilots died Saturday morning during a test flight of the Wright “B” Flyer’s Silver Bird.

The plane went down before 11 a.m. in a field a mile west of 7391 Pitchin Road near the Clark/Greene County line. Ohio State Patrol Sgt. Bryan Cook of the Springfield Post said a call came in at 10:56 a.m. and troopers arrived at 11:39 a.m.

Cook said all-terrain vehicles were needed to get authorities to the crash site.

The president of Wright “B” Flyer Inc. Phil Beaudoin identified the pilots as Don Gum and Mitchell Cary, both from Greene County.

Beaudoin said both men were volunteer pilots and members of the group’s board of trustees.

Cary was a former president of the organization.

Federal Aviation Administration investigators are gathering information about the crash, said spokesman Tony Molinaro. The National Transportation Safety Board is in charge of the investigation because it involves fatalities, he said.

“It could take anywhere from six to eight months to get a final report and a probable cause, and that comes from the NTSB,” Molinaro said.

Witness says plane was sputtering

A witness who lives nearby indicated that a small plane was sputtering and flying very low and then he heard the cracking of trees.

Another witness, Ron Culbertson, was the first responder to the crash scene. Culbertson said he had been watching the plane fly over his home for the last month, including several times Saturday morning when he heard something different.

“I heard the engine cut off, and I thought, that plane’s at an awful low altitude,” Culbertson said, thinking the engine was idling. But then he heard it accelerate and backfire, he said.

“I heard the pop and thought that meant trouble, so I went to look,” he said. “I never dreamed someone was hurt, maybe just needed some help.”

After not finding anything, he returned home, only to hear sirens a few minutes later. But when he returned to the scene a second time, he recalled where he had heard the sounds, and led officials to the plane, which he described as looking as if it had just “crumbled into itself.”

Culbertson was the first person to find the victims. “I went up to the plane, and there they were under the wing,” he said.

Culbertson said he called out to the pilot, and upon receiving no response, beckoned for help.

“Mitch and Don were highly competent pilots with extensive experience flying Wright “B” Flyer airplanes and other experimental aircraft,” Beaudoin said in a statement Saturday.

“They always observed the highest standards of safety. They made enormous contributions to our organization and to the aviation heritage community. They were good friends and we will miss them dearly.”

Cary, 63, lived in Yellow Springs and was a retired United States Air Force test pilot who worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a civilian. According to information from various area speaking engagements. Cary grew up on a farm near Hamilton, Ind., graduated from Purdue, the Air Force Institute of Technology and the University of Dayton.

Cary flew more than 45 types of Air Force, Navy and Army aircraft. He was a long-time officer in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and had been a theology graduate student at UD.

Gum, 71, lived in Beavercreek, and retired from Wright-Paterson Air Force Base. He was a member of the Engineers Club of Dayton. His Facebook page said Gum held degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University and that he graduated from Dayton’s Wilbur Wright High School. He also was a one-time member of the Beavercreek Planning Commission and built his own plane.

“Both Don and Mitch were good friends,” Greene County Commissioner Rick Perales said. “It’s tragic and our hearts and our condolences go out their families, but I think they’d say the same thing, too, that they died doing what they loved to do.”

Plane took off from Springfield

The coroner arrived at the scene at 1:45 p.m. Saturday and Cook said investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration showed up later The plane had taken off from Springfield’s Beckley Municipal Airport, where Beaudoin said all test flights occurred for the Silver Bird.

Beaudoin said the Silver Bird, call sign N453WB, is a slightly smaller version of the Brown Bird, the Model B look-alike Flyer that has been flying in shows for the past 25 years.

He said the plane had 25 hours of the required 40 hours of flight time before Saturday’s flight and had performed superbly. Beaudoin said the aircraft received its FAA air worthiness certificate for test flights last fall.

Authorities did not address who was flying Saturday and Beaudoin said he did not know. Gum was quoted in a March 2010 article on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s website describing what it was like to fly a Model B look-alike.

“With other airplanes you have a reference out front, you have instruments,” Gum said during a show at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. “In (the Wright “B” Flyer) there is nothing around you, no cockpit; it’s beautiful, you can see directly below you.”

Beaudoin said the Silver Bird had been built during the past four years by volunteers and that it was constructed to modern standards. A third, non-flying Wright “B” Flyer is housed at Huffman Prairie.


The latest news videos