‘Legend of Flight’ crashes on PR run

Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.

By Julie Johnsson
A public relations stunt for an Imax movie celebrating the Boeing 787
Dreamliner and other iconic aircraft went awry Tuesday morning when a
vintage Boeing aircraft buzzing downtown Washington, D.C., crashed after

The 1940s-era Boeing Stearman PT17 biplane,  featured in the film,
“Legends of Flight,” flipped on its back as it touched down at Reagan
National Airport, a not so uncommon event in the early days of flight.

A Washington Post reporter, who was a passenger in the plane, caught the incident on video and walked away unscathed, as did the pilot.

The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team to investigate the incident, which closed one of the airport’s runways for 90 minutes.

Washington Post transportation reporter Ashley Halsey III  told WJLA-TV in Washington that the plane flipped forward and “I could hear the propeller crunch as it hit the tarmac. … We were hanging upside down on our shoulder harnesses.”

The Boeing Stearman PT-17 was one of eight planes that flew into the airport to celebrate the movie’s launch, said Doug Freeman, a spokesman for the film. The planes, which have open cockpits, were built between 1938 and 1943 and each carried a joy-riding journalist to help publicize the film.

Onlookers gathered at Reagan to watch the vintage aircraft gasped when the Stearman rolled over its nose, said blogger Jon Ostrower, who saw the event and posted a YouTube video of the botched landing. “It makes your heart just pound to see something like that,” added Ostrower, who said he was relieved to see the plane’s occupants exit it before emergency vehicles arrived. “It was a good ending to what could have been a really marred event.”

Freeman said it was too early to say what caused the mishap but said one culprit could have been an unexpected crosswind.

FAA records show the plane is registered Michael Truschel of Nokesville, Va. Truschel did not immediately return a call to his cell phone Tuesday. In a newsletter from the Vintage Aircraft Association, Truschel says he named his plane the Yellow Mistress.

The 3-D movie, which makes its Chicago debut Wednesday, features airplanes that have changed the history of flight, including the Boeing Stearman. The bright yellow biplanes were widely used to train U.S. aviators during World War II and later were converted to crop-dusters.

The maiden flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is also shown in the movie, as is the pre-flight drama that surrounded that much-delayed aircraft. Capt. Mike Carriker, Boeing’s chief pilot for the 787 program, narrates the film.

Associated Press contributed  to this story.



  1. letsnotforget June 8, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    FYI – the airport is “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport” … not Reagan National Airport. Lets not forget the ORIGINAL president who it was named after.

  2. finerbiner June 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    that is the worst camera work ever. Epic fail

  3. Carl C June 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    After the Air Force One fiasco over NYC, what was anyone thinking in doing a stunt that included a plane buzzing Washington, DC???!

  4. letsforget June 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    What a sham naming it after a bad president who drove up the debt and set up the conservative economic failure that we have today. It will always be Washington National Airport to me.

  5. Bill June 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    “What a sham naming it after a bad president who drove up the debt and set up the conservative economic failure that we have today. It will always be Washington National Airport to me.”
    I don’t claim any political views on either side. You are entitled to your opinion, but the facts you’ve presented along with your opinions seems to contradict the common opinion of Reagan. He is typically viewed as one of the best no nonsense presidents in our recent history.

  6. RegularGuy June 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    The Stearman is a ‘tail-dragger’ type of airplane – one that rests on two front wheels and a tail wheel.
    Any number of conditions at an airport can cause a tail-dragger to flip forward when it lands. Good to hear no one was injured or killed.

  7. paul June 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    If you watch the video closely you’ll notice white smoke behind the wheels just before it flips. My suspicion is that the pilot had pressure on the brakes for some reason and tail draggers are notorious for flipping like that if not handled with a velvet glove.

  8. Greg June 8, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I would hardly call this a stunt, unless everytime you land a plane you think it’s a stunt. Also, they were not buzzing Washington. It was a planned event and they were formation flying to the airport – nothing more. Report well or get another job.

  9. me June 8, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    sad. good thing no one was killed, but face it the grand old days of flight is a joke.

  10. Craig June 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I think Paul is right. If you hit the brakes before the tail starts to settle, the plane will nose right over.

  11. Planeology June 8, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Thanks for the report on this unfortunate accident. I am curious to know if this aircraft is damaged beyond repair, or if it will fly again.
    Also it seems unclear what if any injury the pilot and passenger suffered.
    Is it possible that the pilot could have flared more or the landing speed was too fast?
    I also noticed commercial airliners in the foreground of the video, did this incident cause a delay for airport operations at Reagan?

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