Pilot says Dudley crash left him shaken, not stirred

mstucka@macon.comApril 28, 2014 

Steve McGowan gave this picture to the National Transportation Safety Board after the SparrowHawk gyrocopter he built crashed near Dudley. The engine broke apart and lost power, and McGowan was gliding the aircraft down when its rotor got snared by power lines unseen in the dark.

SOURCE/NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD — Source/National Transportation Safety Board

A gyrocopter that hit the ground between Macon and Dublin in February crashed because its engine came apart, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded last week. Of course, because the aircraft’s Subaru engine had a big hole in it, the conclusion probably wasn’t that hard to reach.

The crash’s case file provides unexpected bits of humor for what could have been a very bad day. The report said Seth Crosby of Alaska was working on his nighttime gyroplane training with Steve McGowan of Macon, who built the SparrowHawk gyrocopter. On Feb. 4, they flew from the Macon Downtown Airport to the Dublin Airport, practiced some “touch-and-go” landings, and were flying back to Macon along Interstate 16 when the trouble started.

Crosby felt a strange vibration and turned the controls over to McGowan. The cockpit began to stink of burned oil, the two began looking for a field and then the engine quit, Crosby told investigators.

“It was dark, and all I could see was where the fields were and where the trees were. I could not see the condition of the fields,” Crosby said.

McGowan saw lights from a school in Dudley and remembered a field near the school used by pilots of radio-controlled airplanes, not full-sized airplanes. They glided toward the field.

They cleared one set of power lines but hit another, which slowed the aircraft as it hit the ground and rolled onto its right side. Crosby and McGowan climbed out the left door.

Neither Crosby nor McGowan were hurt.

“Neither of us are injured in any way ... shaken a little bit, but not stirred too much,” McGowan wrote to investigators. They stopped at the school to tell people there of the crash.

Asked for recommendations on reducing accidents, Crosby wrote: “I have no idea ... Maybe: Future crash sites should have power lines buried underground ...”

The National Transportation Safety Board found a hole in the engine near the fuel intake system and that a piston connecting rod had separated.

McGowan said he had the engine less than two years, and it had been used about 64 hours. His first engine had 593 hours on it when it quit, McGowan told investigators, adding, “that’s another story.”

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service