On October 12, 1996, at 1445 hours Pacific daylight time, a Waco QCF, N11481, operated by Branin Air Service, Inc., Corona, California, touched down hard on runway 26 at the Big Bear City Airport, Big Bear City, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was substantially damaged. Neither the private pilot nor the passenger was injured. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to the pilot, he applied engine power to his 1931 vintage open cockpit wood and fabric airplane and became airborne. Upon climbing to 20 feet above the runway, he smelled smoke in the cockpit and immediately retarded the throttle. The airplane touched down hard on the runway, and the right main landing gear collapsed. The pilot further reported that he subsequently determined that the aroma of "smoke in the cockpit" was produced by persons burning debris near the airport.

The pilot additionally reported that had he not rushed and abruptly retarded the power, the airplane's high sink rate would not have developed. This could have prevented the accident.

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