Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Aerobatic pilot who escaped death returns to performing over Vermont

(NECN: Jack Thurston, Highgate, Vt.) - More than two months after he was forced to ditch his plane in a fiery wreck, aerobatic pilot Dan Marcotte is scheduled to perform again in Vermont. On April 18, Marcotte parachuted to safety after he said his biplane lost a propeller and suffered catastrophic engine failure. The plane hurtled toward Interstate 89 North in Highgate, narrowly missing vehicle traffic on the ground and erupting into a fireball.

Thursday, Marcotte will perform his choreographed maneuvers over Lake Champlain near the Burlington waterfront. He said he'll fly at about 8:20 p.m. before the city's Independence Day fireworks extravaganza, which is held annually on July 3.

"People were relieved to know that everything worked out ok [after the crash], and then as soon as the relief passed that I was ok, there was lots of concern over, 'When are we going to see you fly again?'" Marcotte told New England Cable News.

Marcotte has a new biplane, the same early 1980s model as the one he lost. It boasts a slick black, white, and yellow paint job, and should be eye-catching in the sky, Marcotte said. It is equipped with a device that emits smoke behind the plane, he added. "It's very practiced," Marcotte said of his routine.

In April, Marcotte's parachute became tangled in a tree after ejecting from the plane. He said the parachute manufacturer, Strong Enterprises, supported him by repairing the gear. "I'm flying with my original parachute because we know it works great," Marcotte said. "We always hope never to use it, but we like to think if we have to, that it functions as advertised."

Maggie Leugers with the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department told NECN she was relieved to hear Marcotte was uninjured and was glad his crash didn't cancel his appearance at the July 3 celebration. "He does a fantastic show," Leugers said.

Leugers said tens of thousands of people are hoping for good weather Thursday night for his show. "The only way that he wouldn't do the show is-- we wouldn't do the fireworks either-- if we really had that high wind and lightning," Leugers explained, noting the final call would be made Thursday morning.

Leugers added that the air show meets a rigorous set of safety guidelines, and officials including ones from the U.S. Coast Guard have met to discuss security. "Danny is just so, so safety conscious," Leugers said. "It's done in a very, very safe manner in keeping with all the federal regulations that have to happen."

NECN asked the daredevil if he's nervous getting back into the cockpit after the wreck. He said he's not. "When I'm there, I'm at work," Marcotte explained, saying he is too focused on executing his pre-planned maneuvers to let his mind wander to the past. "When I'm flying my airplane, it's all business."

After the Burlington show, Marcotte is scheduled to appear in Bakersfield, Vermont at 7 p.m. this Saturday, July 5. Marcotte thanked his sponsor, Queen City Steel, in Burlington, for the company's support of his shows, as well as Catto Propellers of California for replacement propellers.

Story and Video:

BURLINGTON, Vt. -    Preparations are underway for Burlington's Independence Day celebration. Thousands are expected to pack the waterfront Thursday.

But before the fireworks display, Dan Marcotte will take to the skies. The aerobatic pilot put the finishing touches on his airshow routine during a final practice run at the Franklin County State Airport.

Marcotte will perform in a new plane after his last one was destroyed in a fiery crash on Interstate 89 back in April. Marcotte says he's pleased with the new plane's performance and is promising an action-packed show.

"I think one important thing that it adds is a little bit of entertainment as a precursor to the fireworks. People get down to the waterfront early to get a good spot to watch the fireworks and they're a little bit entertainment starved for a while before the fireworks start. So people can get restless. This gives them something to look forward to and a little bit of a break before the main event," Marcotte said.

The airshow, put on by Queen City Steel, kicks off at 8:30 p.m. And will run for about 15 minutes.

Story, photo gallery, video and comments:

Ultimate Aero 10-200, N827D: Accident occurred April 18, 2014 in Saint Albans, Vermont:

NTSB Identification: ERA14LA202 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 18, 2014 in Saint Albans, VT
Aircraft: OCONNOR PAUL A ULTIMATE AERO 10-200, registration: N827D
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On April 18, 2012, about 1203 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur built Ultimate Aero 10-200, N827D, was substantially damaged near Saint Albans, Vermont, after an in-flight separation of a propeller blade. The commercial rated pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, which departed Franklin County State Airport (FSO), Highgate, Vermont about 1200.

According to the pilot, He had just recently returned from an airshow in Florida where he had been performing aerobatics with the airplane. On the day of the accident, he was performing a "high-level shakedown" flight, which was his common practice after a long cross country flight. He stated that "the shakedown flight is made at a higher altitude to ensure the satisfactory condition of the aircraft". He departed FSO at approximately 1200 (he reports this is his normal daily practice time) and departed the traffic pattern to the west. He then climbed to 3,000 feet above mean sea level (msl), over some farm fields. He went to begin his high-level shakedown maneuvers but since he was in a "flat pitch attitude" decided to head approximately northeast. As he did so, there was a sudden loud bang/shudder and the canopy shattered. The pilot initially thought there was some type of catastrophic structural failure, and thought a wing had failed. The engine "stopped instantly" and the canopy "clam-shell opened and then slammed back down". He realized that the airplane was "un-flyable" after trying to control the airplane with the flight controls. The airplane then began to spin and he could not arrest the spin. He related that it seemed like a "car accident" loud and sudden and that it seemed the aircraft had lost a lot of forward airspeed.

He advised that before every flight he would practice his egress routine. When he realized that he could not arrest the spin and the airplane was un-flyable, he decided to leave the airplane and initiated an egress. The egress went as planned but his headset jacks would not unplug easily and he ended up breaking them off. He advised that this caused him some concern and a challenge to alleviate the issue. He could not remember what altitude he egressed from the airplane but, after exiting the airplane, his parachute deployed fully at 700 to 1,000 feet msl, and he came to rest in the top of a tree.

According to two witnesses at FSO, They were both familiar with the pilot's airshow practice routine, and the airplane. Both witnesses stated that a couple of minutes after the airplane took off that they heard a normal engine noise followed by a "pop" or a "bang". They both stated that they then ran to the open door of the hangar they were in and looked to the northwest of the airport they saw that the pilot had egressed the airplane and was already descending under a fully deployed chute. They stated that he was approximately 500' to 1,000 feet high and above the trees and was drifting to the northeast.

The airplane was later discovered on the shoulder of the north bound lane of Interstate 89 were it had impacted, and was subject to a post impact fire which consumed the majority of the airplane.

Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed that a propeller blade had separated from the two bladed constant speed propeller's hub.

The propeller hub, the remaining propeller blade, and the propeller governor were retained by the NTSB for further examination.



Dan Marcotte

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