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On July 29, 1999, at 1500 central daylight time (cdt), a Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair, N712RD, operated by an airline transport pilot, was destroyed when it collided with a Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat, N14HP, which was positioned on the east edge of runway 18 at Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, approximately 1,400 feet from the departure end. The F8F-1 was substantially damaged in the collision. At the time of the collision, the F8F-1, N14HP, was stationary on the runway with its engine at idle power. The F4U-4, N712RD, was at full power on takeoff roll and struck the F8F-1 from behind. A Chance Vought F4U-5 Corsair, N179PT, on takeoff roll in formation with N712RD, sustained substantial damage when the pilot saw a second Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat positioned on the runway in front of his airplane, and elected to steer his airplane off of the runway to avoid the other airplane. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot of the F4U-4, N712RD, was seriously injured. The pilot of the F8F-1, N14HP, reported no injuries. The pilot of the F4U-5, N179PT, received minor injuries. The flights were being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 and were not on a flight plan. The three airplanes were part of a formation demonstration flight of eight airplanes in four sections of two airplanes each, that had been cleared to takeoff together from runway 18.
The accident occurred at the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) convention "AirVenture 99" in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Air traffic control clearance for departing aircraft had been relinquished from the FAA tower to a local "air boss" who was a member of the Warbirds of America. The air boss confirmed that he had cleared all of the airplanes to takeoff as a flight.
At 1449:14 cdt, the Navy Flight leader (the pilot of N14HP), checked in with the warbird air boss on 126.6 Megahertz (mhz), and requested "a little more time" to get all of the airplanes in the flight onto the runway to perform their respective engine run-ups. The air boss responded that he's put the flight on the runway following the launch of a flight consisting of T-34's and a flight made up of Mustangs.
At 1454:34 cdt, the air boss asked the Navy Flight leader how long it would take the flight to do their run-ups. The flight leader responded, "just a couple of minutes." He then corrected his statement by interjecting, "How about one minute?" The air boss responded, "whatever you need."
At 1456:19 cdt, the air boss told the Navy Flight leader, "go ahead and take position on the P-51 (Mustang) to get yourself out on the runway and do your run-up, and then take interval on the P-51, which should already be airborne, you're cleared for takeoff also." The Navy Flight leader responded, "Ah Navy Wilco".
Witnesses on the ground reported that the first section, composed of the two F8F-1, Bearcats (N14HP and N2209), taxied down runway 18, turned toward the southwest, and stopped, and the lead airplane in the second section, composed of the F4U-4 (N712RD) and the F4U-5 (N179PT), overran the first section, while the two airplanes were still on the runway.
The flight leader and pilot of the F8F-1, N14HP, said that all of the airplanes in the flight were briefed to taxi onto the runway and then do their engine run-ups. The pilot said he taxied down the runway to the 6,000 foot remaining marker and parked on the edge of the runway, turning the airplane to a heading of 240 degrees, into the wind. "I hadn't started my run-up. I was waiting for everyone to get on the runway. I didn't see him (N712RD) coming." Just then the pilot in the number 5 airplane yelled out over the radio "watch out. That's when he (N712RD) hit me. I spun around 180 degrees onto the grass. I watched him go down the runway and become a horror story."
The pilot of the number two Bearcat (N2209) said that he taxied down the runway with the flight leader, taking a position left of the runway centerline, and turned his airplane so that the nose was almost pointed into the wind. The pilot said that he had just gotten stationary, when he heard the engine noise from the approaching Corsairs. He said that he say a "flash of blue" pass by him on his left side. He then saw the Corsair (N712RD) "go airborne and break up. After [seeing] the flash of blue, and the hit, and the Corsair coming apart, I heard another one (airplane) coming, and [saw it] go by me on my right side. I then saw the other Corsair go off into the grass."
The pilot of the number four airplane (N179PT) and second airplane of the second section said that he and his section leader, the pilot of N712RD, started onto the runway. Once on the runway, the pilot said the section leader stopped and turned 45 degrees [pointing into the wind]. "Then we squared and went parallel [to the runway]. I assumed that he was clearing the runway. The Bearcats were so far down, about 1,200 feet. I locked my tailwheel, got the run-up signal, the head nod , and released brakes." The pilot said that his section leader's airplane accelerated faster than his did. "[I] rolled about 1,000 feet, working my wing position on his. Then I saw something that didn't look right." The pilot said he saw the two Bearcats in front of him. "I came off power and stomped right rudder and departed the runway. I saw pieces flying all over the place." The pilot said his airplane ran over the arresting gear housing, and went into the air for a distance of 60 feet. "The left wing of the airplane struck the grass. The left wheel came down first, then the right, and then I'm back up on the runway. I had it under control. Then I saw the fire and wreckage."
The pilot of the F4U-4, N712RD, held an airline transport pilot certificate for single and multi-engine land airplanes, with commercial privileges for single-engine sea airplanes and private privileges for rotorcraft and glider aero tow. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, at the pilot's last flight physical, dated March 26, 1999, he reported having 8,000 total flying hours.
The pilot of the F8F-1, N14HP, held a commercial pilot certificate for single and multi-engine, instrument airplanes. The pilot reported having 13,001.7 total flying hours, and 1,420.5 hours in the F8F-1. The pilot reported completing a biennial flight review in May, 1998.
The pilot of the F4U-5, N179PT, held a commercial pilot certificate for single and multi-engine land, instrument airplanes, single-engine seaplanes, helicopters, and gliders. The pilot reported having 3,630 total flying hours, and 48 hours in the F4U-5. The pilot reported completing a biennial flight review on May 27, 1999 in the F4U-5.
All three pilots were qualified to fly formation in airshow- waivered airspace through a self-regulating program sponsored by the Warbirds of America and Formation And Safety Training, or F.A.S.T. The pilot of the F8F-1, N14HP, was also qualified as a flight leader. All three of the pilots had flown in a similar formation together on the day prior to the accident, in the same positions, as they were briefed for the flight in which the accident occurred.
The F4U-4, N712RD, was a flying, museum-quality airplane, owned and operated by Cavanaugh Flight Museum, Incorporated, Addison, Texas. The airplane was used predominately as a static display museum attraction. The airplane was also used to perform formation flying displays at airshows around the United States, which featured World War II-era airplanes. The airplane operated under a special airworthiness certificate, experimental category, for exhibition purposes. The airplane had undergone an annual condition inspection on November 12, 1998. The total airframe time at the time of the condition inspection was 2,330.5 hours. At the time of the accident, the airframe time was 2,345.5 hours.
The F8F-1, N14HP, was a flying museum-quality airplane, owned and operated by the Breckenridge Aviation Museum, Breckenridge, Texas. The airplane was used predominately as a static display museum attraction. The airplane was also used to perform formation flying displays at airshows around the United States, which featured World War II-era airplanes. The airplane operated under a special airworthiness certificate, limited category, for exhibition purposes. The airplane had undergone an annual condition inspection on August 20, 1998. The total airframe time at the time of the condition inspection was approximately 2,200 hours.
The F4U-5, N179PT, was operated by the pilot and used to perform formation flying displays at airshows around the United States, which featured World War II-era airplanes. The airplane operated under a special airworthiness certificate, experimental category, for exhibition purposes. The airplane had undergone an annual condition inspection on May 25, 1999. The total airframe time at the condition inspection was 1,345.6 hours. At the time of the accident, the total airframe time was 1,355.6 hours.
At the time of the accident, the Automated Surface Observing/ Reporting System (ASOS) at Wittman Regional Airport reported weather conditions as clear skies, 10 miles visibility, with winds at 290 degrees magnetic at 11 knots, gusting to 18 knots. The reported temperature was 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The dew point was 74 degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter was 29.63 inches of Mercury (Hg).
The airspace over Wittman Regional Airport, extending from the airport center out to a radius of 5 nautical miles, is normally classified as class "D" between the hours of 0600 cdt and 2200 cdt, and is subject to air traffic control provided by an FAA air traffic control tower facility. However, during the airshow portion of the EAA convention, the airspace converts to class "G". The air traffic control tower relinquishes control of the airshow airspace, allowing an airshow boss, an individual who is not an air traffic controller, to coordinate and sequence the various formations involved in the airshow. At the time of the accident, an airshow boss was sequencing flights of warbird-type airplanes. The Air Traffic Control Tower was controlling inbound aircraft to Wittman Regional Airport, that were landing on runway 27.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on-scene investigation began on July 29, 1999, at 1510 cdt.
The accident site began on the east edge of runway 18, approximately 1,400 feet down from the approach end, where two black, "J-shaped" skid marks were found on the runway. The skid marks were 12 feet apart and lined up on a 230-degree magnetic heading. The first (northern-most) skid mark was 27 feet, 3 inches from the east edge of the runway. The second skid mark began 17 feet, 8 inches from the east edge of the runway and ran counter-clockwise, south and east, to the edge of the runway. From where the skid mark ended, a 10 inch wide impression continued in the grass and ended beneath the F8F-1, N14HP, Bearcat's left tire.
The F8F-1, N14HP, Bearcat was located just off of the east edge of the runway.
A debris field, 100 feet wide and 200 feet long, consisting of the remains of the N14HP's outboard right wing and the outboard 11 feet of the F4U-4, N712RD, Corsair's left wing, began 25 feet west of the east edge of the runway, and extended from just west- northwest of the F8F-1, N14HP, south, to approximately 1,550 feet from the approach end of the runway.
A black tire mark began 30 feet west and abeam N14HP. The mark ran 167 feet down the runway, veering slightly east and ending on a 175 degree magnetic heading. A blue and metallic scrape mark began 150 feet down from the beginning of the tire mark and veered further east, ending after 112 feet on a heading of 170 degrees, and within 8 feet of the east edge of the runway.
Approximately 245 feet south of N14HP, and 5 feet from the east edge of the runway, the first in a series of 10 perpendicular running slashes in the concrete began. Each slash was evenly spaced, approximately 26 inches apart. By the sixth slash, the interval had increased to 34 inches apart. The slashes continued to the east edge of the runway where they ended.
Where the slashes in the runway ended, a series of 5 "C-shaped" scars in the ground was observed beginning 275 feet south of N14HP and proceeding along a 162 degree magnetic heading for 15 feet.
A 25 foot long, 7 foot 7 inch wide, and 11 inch deep ground scar, began 290 feet south of N14HP, and 10 feet east of the east edge of the runway. The ground scar ran southeast along a 160 degree magnetic heading.
Beginning at the end of the ground scar, and extending for 105 feet south-southeastwardly, was an area consisting of 9 divots in the ground, initially spaced 11 feet apart, but then gradually reducing to just a few feet apart. Within this area were pieces of the F4U-4, N712RD's forward fuselage and left wing, and an oil spray area which fanned out into a 50 degree arc, along a predominate magnetic heading of 150 degrees.
A second ground scar began 435 feet south-southeast of N712RD, and 56 feet east of the east edge of runway 18. The scar was 57 feet long, 11 feet 4 inches wide and 7 inches at its deepest point. The scar ran southeast along a 141 degree magnetic heading. Pieces of N712RD's canopy, canopy frame, flight publications, and pilot's personal effects were scattered along the length of the ground scar. Grass within the vicinity of the ground scar and extending southeastwardly for 25 feet beyond the end of the scar was scorched and burned.
The main wreckage of the F4U-4, N712RD, was located 2,000 feet south of the departure end of runway 18 and approximately 100 feet east of the east edge of the runway.
The main wreckage of N712RD consisted of three separate pieces, the engine section and propeller, the forward fuselage section containing the cockpit, right wing, inboard left wing and main landing gear, and the aft fuselage section containing the empennage and tail wheel.
The engine section rested inverted in the grass, approximately 2,000 feet from the approach end of runway 18 and 80 feet east of the runway's east edge. The engine was oriented on a 173 degree magnetic heading. The engine mount's were bent and broken downward and twisted to the right. The engine cowling remained intact around the engine and showed slight inward crushing and distortion to the right. The propeller remained attached to engine. The propeller dome showed no damage. The four propeller blades showed aft bending, torsional twisting, and clockwise curling when viewed from the nose looking aft. All of the blades showed chordwise scratches.
The airplane's aft fuselage section rested inverted in the grass, approximately 2,025 feet from the departure end of runway 18 and 110 feet from the runway's east edge. The aft fuselage was broken off just forward of the aft cockpit bulkhead and oriented on a 187 degree magnetic heading. The right side of the aft fuselage, aft of the fracture, was crushed inward. The left side of the aft fuselage, aft of the fracture, was bent down and buckled outward. The vertical stabilizer was bent aft and broken off at the fuselage. The stabilizer metal was crushed inward and aft. The rudder was broken free of the vertical stabilizer at the hinges and was resting five feet east of the aft fuselage section. It was bent and broken aft and downward.
The left and right horizontal stabilizers were broken from the fuselage at the root cuffs and displaced slightly upward. The outboard 13 inches of the left horizontal stabilizer and stabilizer tip, at the leading edge were bent forward and twisted upward 45 degrees. The outboard 30 inches of the left elevator's trailing edge was crushed inward and buckled. The left elevator trim tab was broken out. The right horizontal stabilizer was crushed laterally into the fuselage. The lower skin showed buckling and upward bending at the root where it had broken free of the fuselage. The right elevator was crushed laterally into the right side of the fuselage. The inboard 30 inches of the right elevator was crushed inward toward the fuselage and buckled. Flight control continuity to the elevator and rudder were confirmed. The tailwheel and tailwheel doors showed no damage. The arresting hook was in the stowed position and showed no damage.
The forward fuselage section rested upright on its main landing gear and bottom fuselage skin just beneath the cockpit floor. The section was located 8,035 feet from the departure end of runway 18, 127 feet from the runway's east edge, and was oriented on a 255 degree magnetic heading. The majority of the section showed charring and scorching. A 67 foot long, 20 foot wide area of grass, beginning beneath the forward fuselage and running northwestwardly along a 320 degree magnetic heading, through the aft fuselage section, was scorched and burned.
The forward fuselage at the firewall was crushed downward and bent toward the right. Just aft of the firewall, the top fuselage was bent inward and right. Remaining engine mount pieces at the firewall were bent down and crushed inward. The firewall face was charred and showed areas of heat damage. The fuselage area, aft of the firewall and forward of the cockpit was intact. The skin surface was charred and heavy wrinkling. The sliding bubble canopy and front windscreen were broken aft and shattered. The forward cockpit and instrument panel were intact.
The upper instrument panel was broken free of the top panel mount. The left side cockpit wall was bent inward. The right side cockpit wall was bent outward. The pilot seat was broken out of the cabin floor.
The right wing remained attached to the fuselage at the wing root and was predominately intact. The bottom of the right wing from the root to the dihedral showed heavy charring. The top surface of the right wing showed charring across the entire span. The right wing tip was torn longitudinally and inwardly approximately 35 degrees to the trailing edge where it was bent upward 90 degrees. The right aileron was broken out and fractured into several pieces. Control continuity to the right aileron was confirmed. The trailing edge of the right outboard flap was crushed inward approximately 3 inches. The top skin surface showed heavy charring. The right inboard flap was crushed inward into the fuselage and bent down at the trailing edge.
The right main landing gear was intact. The inboard-facing sides of the right tire and landing gear strut showed surface charring. The forward facing landing gear doors were also charred.
The left wing was broken aft longitudinally approximately 7 feet outboard of the wing root. The top and bottom surfaces showed heavy charring. The inboard flap showed skin wrinkles and heavy charring. The outboard flap was broken aft longitudinally at mid-span and showed heavy charring.
The left main landing gear was intact. The inboard-facing sides of the left tire and landing gear strut showed surface charring. The forward facing landing gear doors were also charred.
The outboard 11 feet of the F4U-4's left wing, rested inverted on runway 18 at the south end of the debris field, approximately 1,525 feet from the approach end of the runway, and 50 feet west of the runway's east edge. The wing was broken down and aft. The forward wingtip and outboard wing leading edge showed two laterally running, downward slashing tears through the top and bottom skin surfaces, running parallel, and spaced 11 inches apart. The forward-most tear was 38 inches long and 3 to 5 inches in width. It began at the leading edge, just inboard of the wingtip rivet line, and ran inboard at a 20 degree angle to the lateral axis. The second tear was 50 inches long and 3 to 5 inches in width. It began at the outboard edge of the wingtip, just forward of mid-span and ran inboard paralleling the first tear. Bottom-side wing skin was peeled downward and aft at the two tears. The left aileron was broken out and mangled. Flight control continuity to the left aileron was confirmed.
Examination of the airplane's engine, engine controls, and other systems revealed no anomalies.
The airplane was resting upright on the east edge of runway 18, approximately 1,400 feet from the departure end. The airplane was oriented on a 070 degree magnetic heading. The airplane's main landing gear were positioned just off of the prepared surface into the grass. The airplane's tail wheel was on the runway.
The airplane was predominately intact with exception of damage sustained to the right wing and propeller.
The airplane's right wing was bent downward 40 degrees, and broken aft longitudinally, through the main spar, approximately 72 inches outboard of the wing root. The inboard wing section was also bent forward, such that the inboard trailing edge of the right flap was pulled away from the fuselage approximately seven inches. The leading edge cuff of the right wing at the root was crushed laterally into the right side of the fuselage. The bottom fuselage skin at the right forward wing root area showed buckling and wrinkles. The outboard 42 inches of the airplane's right flap were bent downward 32 degrees, and aft 15 degrees. The top skin of the surviving inboard wing section and flap showed parallel scrapes and indigo blue paint marks running 45 degrees from the wing's leading edge, outboard and aft to the fracture.
The severed right outboard wing section and right aileron was fractured into several pieces and scattered onto the runway, south and west of the airplane, within the 100 foot wide by 200 foot long debris field. Several of the wing pieces, including the outboard 5 feet of the wingtip, showed scrapes and indigo blue paint marks running parallel across the top skin surfaces. Flight control continuity to the right aileron was confirmed.
All four propeller blades showed heavy damage to the blade tips. One of the four propeller blade's tip was broken off laterally. Another propeller blade's tip was twisted outboard and had a piece of the leading edge torn out. The blade also had heavy scoring marks and scratches running chordwise across the front and rear surfaces of the outboard 12 to 16 inches of the blade. The outboard 12 to 16 inches of the other two propeller blades had heavy scoring marks and scratches running chordwise across the front and rear surfaces.
Continuity to the remaining flight controls was confirmed. Examination of the airplane's engine, engine controls, and other systems revealed no anomalies.
The NTSB examined the airplane at the Warbirds ramp on Wittman Regional Airport, on July 31, 1999, at 1130 cdt.
The outboard 5 feet of the airplane's left wing was bent upward approximately 5 degrees. The upper outboard wing skin showed heavy wrinkles. The upper cap of the left wing's aft spar, approximately 6 inches outboard of the middle aileron hinge and actuator arm, was bent upward. The right main landing gear tire was flat. The main gear door showed parallel scratches running longitudinally across the span of the outer door skin.
Flight control continuity was confirmed. Examination of the engine, engine controls and other airplane systems revealed no anomalies.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot of the F4U-4, N712RD, was taken from the accident site to Mercy Medical Center, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Shortly after arrival, the pilot, labeled as critical, was airlifted by helicopter to Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Approximately a week following the accident, the pilot was transported to a hospital near his home in the Dallas, Texas, area.
On August 23, 1999, the pilot's wife reported that the pilot was in stable condition. Due to the nature and severity of his injuries, the pilot could not be interviewed at this time.
Numerous witnesses on the field stated that within the seconds following the F4U-4's collision with the F8F-1, a fire broke out in area of the F4U-4's forward fuselage, just behind the engine cowling. The fire intensified and spread across the front of the F4U-4 as the airplane tumbled and broke apart, and continued after the airplane wreckage had come to a stop.
The Oshkosh Fire Department responded to the accident scene immediately following the accident. The first fire truck arrived at the scene and began expending fire-suppressing agent on the fire within 55 seconds of the collision. The fire was principally confined to the F4U-4's forward fuselage and wing section. A second fire truck arrived at the scene 5 minutes and 50 seconds after the collision. The fire was extinguished within 7 minutes following the accident.
Emergency Medical and Fire Department personnel were pre- positioned on the airport in support of the airshow, which was going on at the time of the accident.
An individual trained in administering first aid, located the pilot of the F4U-4, face down, in front of the aft fuselage section of the airplane, approximately 1 minute and 20 seconds following the collision. A fire fighter arrived at the pilot seconds later. Both individuals stabilized the pilot, repositioned him, and began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The Oshkosh Fire Department Rescue Squad Paramedic Unit arrived at the pilot's location 8 minutes and 30 seconds after the collision. The pilot was prepared and transported from the accident site to Mercy Medical Center, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 14 minutes and 50 seconds after the accident occurred.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Another F-4U Corsair was examined to determine the pilot's field of vision from the cockpit, with the airplane resting on its main landing gear and tail wheel, as the airplane would be just prior to power application for takeoff. It was observed that the forward field of view from the pilot's seat, beginning with zero degrees projected on a left perpendicular line extending outward from the airplane's longitudinal axis and proceeding around the front of the airplane to a right perpendicular line extending from the airplane's longitudinal axis equating to 180 degrees, was blocked by the nose of the airplane between 22 and 158 degrees. It was determined that any obstacle falling within this blocked area would not be seen from the cockpit until the airplane had reached sufficient airspeed to raise the tail, thus lowering the nose, and providing full forward field of view for the pilot.
Several videotapes depicting the accident were provided to the NTSB by spectators positioned behind the airshow line, west of the taxiway which parallels runway 18. Examination of the videotapes showed an Army flight of three airplanes, a P-51, a P- 47 and another P-51, takeoff just prior to the Navy Flight leader, N14HP, taking the runway. The second P-51 began its takeoff roll 12 seconds after the P-47 began its takeoff roll. The F8F-1, N14HP, followed by his wingman in the second Bearcat, N2209, began to taxi onto runway 18 immediately after the second P-51 begin its takeoff roll. The F8F-1, N14HP, took 23 seconds from the time the P-51 started its takeoff roll, to taxi 1,400 feet down runway 18, turn to a southwesterly heading, and stop. Approximately 4 seconds after N14HP stopped on the runway, the F4U-4, N712RD, is seen running through the right wing of N14HP. The videotapes show N712RD, just moments before the collision, made a slight turn to the right and began to lift off of the runway. In the collision, the outboard portion of the N712RD's left wing was seen separating from the airplane. The Corsair, N712RD, continued down runway 18, veering to the east, off of the runway, as it began to roll counter-clockwise onto it's left side. The airplane's propeller and engine cowling became embedded in the ground, standing the remaining airplane up on its nose. The videotapes show the airplane come apart, and a fire ignite which engulfed the airplane's wings and center fuselage. Airplane parts came to rest in the vicinity of the 6,000 foot remaining, runway marker. The post-crash fire ensued until the fire department put it out.
The Formation And Safety Training or F.A.S.T. program is addressed in the 4th Edition of Formation Flight Manual, published by the T-34 Association, Incorporated, in 1996. Under the section entitled Qualification Programs, the manual states, "In response to airshow sponsors and FAA plans to regulate formation flying in waivered airspace during airshows, the warbird groups have formed three self-regulating organizations. The F.A.S.T. organization will deal with -- low wing, single engine, glass canopy, tandem, fighter training type. At some point, the FAA will require that anyone performing formation maneuvers carry credentials from the appropriate organization. F.A.S.T. is currently working out the details of qualification, currency, and record keeping. At the same time, its attempting to determine what degree of regulations are necessary to satisfy the FAA, while still being tolerable and without being overly restrictive and bureaucratic. Note that F.A.S.T., deal[s] with airshow waivered airspace."
Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cavanaugh Flight Museum, Incorporated, Addison, Texas, and the Breckenridge Aviation Museum, Breckenridge, Texas.
All of the wreckage of the F4U-4, N712RD, was released and returned to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, Incorporated, Addison, Texas.
The F8F-1, N14HP, was released and returned to the Breckenridge Aviation Museum, Breckenridge, Texas.
The F4U-5, N179PT, was released and returned its pilot.