Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of Mitchell Cary and Don Gum who devoted so much to aviation. It is a difficult day for those of us who support efforts to keep history flying and the Wright B Flyer Museum.
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 about two miles west of 7391 Pitchin Road. Ohio State Patrol Sgt. Brian Cook of the Springfield Post said a call came in at 10:56 a.m. and troopers arrived at 11:39 a.m. He said all-terrain vehicles were needed to get authorities to the crash site. Media on the ground were not allowed on the property.
The president of Wright B. Flyer Inc. identified the pilots as Don Gum and Mitchell Cary. Phil Beaudoin said both men were volunteer pilots and members of the group’s board of trustees and that Cary was a former president of the organization.
“Wright B. Flyer Inc. and its members extend our deepest condolences to the families of Mitchell Cary and Don Gum,” Beaudoin said Saturday. “Mitch and Don were highly competent pilots with extensive experience flying Wright “B” Flyer airplanes and other experimental aircraft.
“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.”
The coroner arrived at the scene at 1:45 p.m. and Cook said investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration were on the way. The plane had taken off from Springfield’s Beckley Municipal Airport, where Beaudoin said all test flights occurred for the Silver Bird.
A witness who lives nearby indicated that a small plane was sputtering and flying very low and then he heard the cracking of trees.
Beaudoin said the Silver Bird, call sign N453WB, is a slightly smaller version of the Brown Bird, the Model B replica Flyer that has been flying in shows for the past 25 years.
He said the plane had 25 hours of flight time before Saturday’s flight. 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 replica.
“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 replica is housed at Hoffman Prairie.