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On April 17, 2000, about 1106 hours Hawaiian standard time, an experimental modified Convair BT-13A, N56336, was destroyed after colliding with a movie set palm tree during filming on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The commercial rated pilot received serious injuries. American Airpower Heritage Museum, Midland, Texas, operated the flight under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed.
The airplane was modified to resemble a Japanese "Val" dive-bomber. At the time of the accident, the airplane was the number 3 wingman of a group of three "Val's" flying in a modified "V" formation making a low pass over a movie set.
The pilot's preflight briefing called for wingman number 2 and 3 to stack up (above) on flight leader number 1.
At the termination of the low pass over the movie set, the number 3 airplane's left wing collided with a palm tree, estimated to be 65 feet tall, severing the outboard 18 feet of the wing. Impact marks and organic material transfer similar to the palm tree were found about 2.5 feet inboard of the wing tip.
According to accident report completed by the operator, the commercial rated pilot had accumulated a total flight time of 6,100 hours with 1,000 plus hours in the accident make and model. His last second-class flight physical was conducted on February 22, 2000, with the provision that he must wear corrective lenses. The pilot held a Confederate Air Force formation pilot rating for wingman.
The Safety Board investigator interviewed the pilot in the hospital. He stated that the last thing that he recalled was experiencing turbulence from the flight leader. He further stated that the smoke generators were not an issue and he did not fly into or through smoke.
About 1969, the need arose for Japanese Zero, Kate, and Val airplanes for the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! The replica airplanes were created/modified from existing production airplanes at Long Beach, California, and were still available for this movie "Pearl Harbor."
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was examined on site. According to video viewing, after the collision with the palm tree and loss of 18 feet of right wing, the airplane rolled, about twice, and descended into the Ford Island Airport landing area. The fuselage was located about 445 feet from the palm tree on about a 040-degree magnetic heading. The engine was 236 feet beyond the fuselage. The left wing was located about midway between the palm tree and the engine, and 200 feet southeast of the 040-degree wreckage path.
The pilot wore a 5-point military type restraint system and helmet.
The Safety Board investigator viewed film and videotape in an attempt to determine whether or not the smoke being generated for the particular live recreation of the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor could have obscured the pilot's view of the movie set palm trees. It was subsequently determined that the smoke was not a factor.
The Safety Board released the wreckage on April 19, 2000, to the owner's representative.