FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Greensboro FSDO-39
NTSB Identification: ERA17LA031
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 29, 2016 in New Bern, NC
Aircraft: HADDOW WILLIAM H PITTS SPECIAL S 1, registration: N27832
Injuries: 1 Minor.
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 October 29, 2016, about 1600 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built Pitts Special S-1, N27832, was substantially damaged when it impacted a river, following a loss of control during aerobatic flight near Coastal Regional Airport (EWN), New Bern, North Carolina. The commercial pilot incurred minor injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by commercial pilot as a personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight that departed EWN about 1545.
The pilot reported that he was practicing aerobatics about 3 miles northeast of EWN, over the Neuse River. During the maneuvers, as he input left aileron, the control stick was stiff and he believed he observed abnormal movement of the upper left aileron. He then applied more force to free the control stick and input right aileron; however, the airplane continued to roll left and entered a spin. The pilot was unable to recover from the spin and subsequently parachuted from the airplane. Both the pilot and the airplane came to rest in the Neuse River.
Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector and the pilot revealed substantial damage to the wings and fuselage. They also noted that a majority of the left wings, including the ailerons and aileron control tubes, were not recovered from the river.
The single-seat, bi-wing, fixed-tailwheel airplane, was assembled from a kit and issued an FAA experimental airworthiness certificate in 1994. It's most recent annual conditional inspection was completed on July 21, 2016. At that time, the airplane had accrued 170 total hours.
A matter of seconds is why Marco Bouw is still alive.
You may remember him. He got some attention last Saturday, Oct. 29, when his aerobatic biplane malfunctioned while flying over the Neuse River. Unable to regain control, Bouw had to jump clear as the biwing Pitts S-1S plummeted, following it by parachute into the river.
Bouw, a 26-year-old Pamlico resident and professional pilot for Trans State Airlines out of Missouri, has been flying since he was 16. He is a British citizen, having moved from England to his current home at the age of 3.
He said he is training in aerobatics. “My dream job is to be an airshow pilot,” he said.
It was watching local airshow pilot Hubie Tolson flying that inspired him in that direction. Bouw has placed in the top three of every competition he’s entered over the past year and a half, he said.
Bouw’s aerobatic wings of choice is a Pitts S-1S, a fabric-covered biplane first designed in 1946. “It has won more aerobatic competitions than any other plane,” he said, though in recent years it has been outperformed in power and roll rate by newer planes.
But having a reliable airplane and proven flight skill isn’t always enough.
Bouw met for an interview, wearing a jacket bearing the phrase “Chute happens: Live with it.”
It was a chute — required by law in the U.S. — that kept him alive last Saturday. That, timing, and a bit of luck.
Stunt pilots keep their aircraft over non-populated areas — farmland, woodlands such as the Croatan Forest, over airports or over large bodies such as the Neuse, which is about a mile wide where his airplane came down, within sight of Union Point.
They ride with a military-style parachute – meaning it is fairly small and not really capable of maneuvering by its wearer. It is strapped onto the body with the parachute being behind the buttocks so that the wearer actually sits on it in the airplane.
He said the FAA is investigating his crash, and that he has talked extensively with investigators about his 4 p.m. crash. “What I told them was, I was performing a maneuver,” he explained. “My control stick seemed to jam up. It wouldn’t unjam.”
Bouw went through a number of steps to get the Pitts back under control but nothing worked. By now the airplane was rolling and diving toward the ground, he said. “I knew I was going to die if I stayed in the plane.”
He said that ditching one’s airplane and using the chute are only done in life-or-death situations.
He grabbed the canopy of his airplane and pulled it back. Because of the angle and speed of the airplane – Bouw estimated he was going about 180 mph – he couldn’t easily climb onto his seat to jump out. “I had to grab a handle and hop up onto the seat like this,” he said, illustrating with the chair he sat on in the interview.
He guesses he was about 800 feet up when he jumped. He hit the water about 8 seconds later, a mere second or two after his airplane which broke to pieces when it struck the water nearby.
It wasn’t a gentle landing: landing with the parachute, he said, is like jumping from a second story window, and just clearing the airplane can be a trick. It doesn’t take much to be struck by the tail or wing when you bail out.
He said his chute deployed at about 200 feet and he landed in the river about a hundred yards from a sandbar. “I had bruises from the harness,” he said. “I hit the water hard enough that my knees swelled up for four days straight.”
He said he jumped just in the nick of time: “If I’d have jumped any later I wouldn’t have made it, because the chute wouldn’t have opened,” he said.
If he had stayed with the plane he would have been killed: it shattered on striking the river, leaving some wooden shards the size of pencils.
When he struck the water, he said he struggled to get out of the parachute as, had it landed on him, it could have filled and dragged him under. In the deep water – it was about 15 or 20 feet deep – he was disoriented but made it to the surface.
“I started screaming for help,” he said. Soon a jet ski arrived, its driver pulling him on board and he was quickly transferred to a boat.
He received medical treatment and went home. The boat was pulled from the river the next day and is now in Bouw’s hangar near Coastal Carolina Regional Airport.
Bouw has no intention of giving up aerobatic flight as a result of his accident. In fact, he hopes to be in the air practicing again within a year.
“Aerobatics is the ultimate freedom for a pilot,” he said. “You find out what kind of personality you have.”
NEW BERN, Craven County - A plane crashed into the Neuse River Saturday afternoon. New Bern Fire and Rescue officials tell NewsChannel 12 the pilot ejected himself from the plane when something went wrong.
Officials said Marco Bouw is the stunt pilot who crashed. Officials said something went wrong during one of his stunts and then the plane started spiraling toward the Neuse River. The pilot deployed his parachute and landed in the water.
New Bern Fire Rescue and several volunteer fire department responded to Union Point Park, near where the crash happened, around 4:40 p.m. according to Chief Eric Mullis. New Bern Police were already on scene when the crash happened because of an event going on at Union Point Park. The Coast Guard was also notified about the crash.
When emergency officials arrived on scene Bouw was already out of the water because witnesses in private boats stepped in and rescued him from the river. He was not taken to a hospital because Carolina East EMS checked him out on scene and he did not have any serious injuries.
Witnesses said they saw smoke and the plane spiraling downwards toward the Neuse, but did not hear any loud sounds associated with the crash.
The plane is still in the Neuse River, but emergency officials said there is no leakage from the plane and no danger to the public. It is now up to Craven County Emergency Management to figure out what to do with the plane.
NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - A pilot who crashed late Saturday afternoon in the Neuse River was able to parachute out of the aircraft to safety, officials say.
Little Swift Creek and Tri Community volunteer fire departments were at the scene making sure no other boats hit the plane, which is now under water in pieces. New Bern Fire Department was also at the scene.
The crash happened near Union Point Park around 4 p.m.
Ira Whitford with Craven County Emergency Services says Marco Bouw was practicing stunts and parachuted out of the plane once he realized something was wrong.
We're told someone who was already in the water brought him to safety. The pilot is said to be okay and was not transported to the hospital.
The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the crash.
NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – A small plane crashed into the Neuse River Saturday afternoon.
New Bern Police say happened at 4:15pm near Union Point Park.
Craven County Emergency Services Assistant Director Ira Whitford told WNCT the pilot was practicing stunts when something went wrong. The pilot, identified at Marco Bouw, ejected himself and parachuted out of the plane. No injuries were reported.
New Bern Police said the pilot of the plane was the only one on board at the time of the crash. Investigators say the pilot was pulled to safety and did not appear to have been serious injured.
New Bern Police, the Craven County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina Highway Patrol, and the U.S. Coast Guard all responded to the crash.
Investigators say the plane broke into several pieces and went underwater during the crash.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.