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On June 8, 2010, at approximately 10:19 eastern daylight time,a Boeing Stearman B75N1, N27WE, nosed over upon landing on runway 1 at Ronald Reagan Washington Airport (DCA), Arlington, VA. The flight was operated as a personal flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on a VFR flight rules flight plan. It departed Manassas Regional Airport (HEF) at 0945 eastern daylight time. Neither the pilot nor his passenger were injured.
According to the pilot his aircraft was one of eight Stearman airplanes that were to fly together from HEF to DCA to promote a Smithsonian Institution Air and Space Museum motion picture. Each airplane was to carry a passenger from the media to DCA and later, after a ceremony at the museum, back to HEF.
The pilot stated that as part of the preflight, he instructed the passenger not to touch the controls. The passenger later stated that the pilot told him to "stay clear of the control stick" and he also pointed out where his "feet should be positioned at all times to stay clear of the control [rudder] pedals."
According to the pilot, the eight airplanes approached DCA from the south and his initial clearance from the control tower was to land on runway 33. This clearance was changed to land on runway 1 because of a wind shift. As he entered the flare to land at approximately 70 miles per hour, his plan was to keep the tail of the airplane in the air and roll farther down the runway to allow more room for the following airplanes in his formation. He stated that when the wheels touched the runway he inadvertently applied the toe brakes via the rudder pedals. The airplane flipped over onto the top wing and the vertical stabilizer/rudder.
Following the accident both the pilot and the passenger released their seat belts and shoulder harnesses and egressed the airplane.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The event resulted in damage to the upper wing, the vertical stabilizer and rudder, the engine, and the propeller. The fuel tank was not breached and no fire occurred.
The upper wing is composed of three major sections; the center section and left/right outboard wing panels. Each of the three upper wing sections had some crush damage to the leading edges and/or upper surfaces. A flying wire that had connected the center section to the fuselage separated at one end.
The vertical stabilizer had been crushed at the top and the rudder was crushed, as well. The cables to the rudder pedals were found intact.
The brakes were checked on the runway, after the airplane was turned right side up. The brakes were used during the tow to a hangar. When the wheels were removed in the hangar, the brake drums and shoes appeared to be new. Conversation with the owner/pilot revealed that he typically did not need to use the brakes and that the brake set was about five years old.
A skid mark from each tire was found on the runway, 92 feet prior to where the runway showed the first of a set of propeller strike marks.
The two tires exhibited reverted rubber.
The accident airplane, a Stearman B75N1, serial number 75-6651, underwent its last annual inspection on April 1, 2010, and it had accumulated 2388 flight hours at that time. The engine was a 330 horsepower Lycoming R-680-13, and has operated for 998 total hours. Its time since overhaul is 498 hours. The propeller is a controllable pitch Hamilton Standard model 2B20.
The pilot occupied the rear seat and the passenger occupied the front seat of this two-seat airplane. Both were wearing 4 point restraint systems which functioned normally.
The pilot, age 55, held a Class 2 medical certificate with a limitation that he must possess glasses for near vision. The date of his last medical examination was April 22, 2010, and his last flight review was on August 3, 2008. This review was in a Stearman airplane. He has a total flight time of 875 hours with 190 hours in Stearman airplanes. He has flown 20, 8, and 2 hours in the Stearman in the last 90 days, 30 days, and 24 hours respectively, before the accident.
Runway 1/19 at DCA is 6869 feet long by 150 feet wide and paved with asphalt. It was dry at the time of the accident.
In a post-accident written statement, pilot gave the following reasons for the event:
1. His airplane was equipped with Bendix drum brakes which "grab" when any toe pressure is applied to the rudder pedals.
2. The rudder pedals were in a forward position to accommodate a pilot wearing a parachute. He did not wear a parachute for the accident flight, nor did his seat have a back cushion installed, nor did he readjust the rudder pedals rearward for the accident flight.
3. He wore thick-soled running shoes rather than the thinner-soled shoes he usually wore while flying the accident airplane.
4. He flies formation with his feet off the floorboard and up on the rudder pedals. He believes he did not drop his heels to the floorboards during the landing. This would have lessened the opportunity for inadvertent braking.
5. Due to the nature of the airfields he usually utilizes, he seldom uses the brakes at all during landing, even though he had over 600 landings in the accident airplane.