'Shutter of stall' experienced before Bluebonnet Belle crash

Lew K. Cohn/Burnet Bulletin
Firefighters put out a fire that erupted after the Bluebonnet Belle crashed in July 2018. A preliminary NTSB report states the captain told investigators he felt the "shutter of a stall" shortly before the plane crashed.





By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Burnet Bulletin

The captain of the Bluebonnet Belle told investigators he felt “the shutter of a stall” before the airplane turned left and impacted the ground, according to a preliminary report filed by the National Transportation Safety Board about the July 21, 2018, crash of the historic plane.

The Douglas DC-3 twin-engine plane, which was operated by the Commemorative Air Force, was destroyed beyond salvage after it crashed shortly after takeoff at about 9:15 a.m. from the Burnet Municipal Airport en route to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to attend an air show with 13 people on board. The flight was going to make an intermediate fuel stop at the Sedalia Regional Airport in Sedalia, Missouri.

Among those seriously injured were the captain, crew chief and four passengers, while one passenger sustained a minor injury. The co-pilot and five other passengers were not injured. There were no fatalities.

According to the preliminary report, the co-pilot was the flying pilot, was briefed prior to flight he would perform the takeoff, though the captain — the non-flying pilot — taxied the plane to the runup area, where all pre-takeoff checks were completed, and also taxied the plane onto runway 19.

According to the report, the co-pilot took control of the plane, gave a pre-takeoff brief and initiated takeoff sequence.

“About 10 seconds into the takeoff roll, the airplane drifted right, at which time he applied left rudder input. This was followed shortly by the captain saying that he had the airplane,” the report stated.

According to the report, the captain told investigators he “didn't recall” the airplane swerving left, but did recall telling the co-pilot “not to push the tail up because it was heavy” shortly before it swerved to the left.

“The captain stated that he yelled 'right rudder' three times before taking control of the airplane,” the report stated. “He said that as he put his hands on the control yoke, he noticed that either the tail started to come down or the main wheels were either light or were just coming off the ground as it exited the left side of the runway.

“The captain said that he knew the airplane was slow as he tried to ease it [the airplane] over [to the runway] and set it back down. Subsequently, he felt the 'shutter of a stall,' and the airplane turned to the left and impacted the ground. After the airplane came to a stop, a postimpact fire ensued, during which all the occupants of the airplane egressed through the aft left door.”

The plane came to rest about 145 feet east of the left side of runway 19 and about 2,638 feet from the approach end. The fire consumed the fuselage of the plane from the nose cone to about three feet in front of the left side cargo door, along with a majority of the wing center section, the report stated. Vegetation was burned within about 200 feet of the main wreckage.

The accident remains under investigation at this time.

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