Saturday, July 21, 2018

Douglas C-47B (DC-3), registered to American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum Inc and operated by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), N47HL: Accident occurred July 21, 2018 at Burnet Municipal Airport (KBMQ), Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas
Commemorative Air Force; Dallas, Texas

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Burnet, TX
Accident Number: WPR18FA201
Date & Time: 07/21/2018, 0915 CDT
Registration: N47HL
Aircraft: Douglas DC3
Injuries: 6 Serious, 1 Minor, 6 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Business 

On July 21, 2018, about 0915 central daylight time, a tailwheel equipped Douglas DC-3 twin-engine airplane, N47HL, was destroyed when it impacted terrain during takeoff from the Burnet Municipal Airport, Burnet, Texas. The airplane was registered to American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum Inc., and operated by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The airline transport captain, crew chief, and 4 passengers sustained serious injuries, 1 passenger sustained minor injuries, and the airline transport co-pilot and 5 passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight. The flight was originating at the time of the accident with an intended destination of Sedalia Regional Airport (DMO), Sedalia, Missouri.

Representatives from the CAF reported that the intention of the flight was to travel to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to attend an airshow, with an intermediate fuel stop at DMO.

The co-pilot, who was the flying pilot (FP) reported that prior to the flight, it was briefed that he would perform the takeoff. He stated that the captain taxied the airplane to the runup area, where all pre-takeoff checks were completed; the captain then taxied the airplane onto runway 19. The co-pilot further stated that he then took control of the airplane, provided a pre-takeoff brief, and initiated the takeoff sequence. About 10 seconds into the takeoff roll, the airplane drifted right, at which time he applied left rudder input. This was followed shortly by the captain saying that he had the airplane.

The captain, who was the non-flying pilot (NFP), reported that during the initial stages of the takeoff roll, he didn't recall the airplane swerving to the right, however, recalled telling the co-pilot not to push the tail up because it was heavy; he also remembered the airplane swerving to the left shortly thereafter. The captain stated that he yelled "right rudder" three times before taking control of the airplane. He said that as he put his hands on the control yoke, he noticed that either the tail started to come down or the main wheels were either light or were just coming off the ground as it exited the left side of the runway. The captain said that he knew the airplane was slow as he tried to ease it [the airplane] over [to the runway] and set it back down. Subsequently, he felt the 'shutter of a stall," and the airplane turned to the left and impacted the ground. After the airplane came to a stop, a postimpact fire ensued, during which all the occupants of the airplane egressed through the aft left door.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane came to rest upright on a heading of about 113° magnetic, about 145 ft east of the left side, and 2,638 ft from the approach end of runway 19. The postimpact fire consumed the fuselage from the nose cone aft to about 3 ft forward of the left side cargo door along with a majority of the wing center section. No evidence of any flight control locks was found installed. The tailwheel locking pin was found in place and was sheered into multiple pieces. Vegetation (grass) within about 200 ft of the main wreckage was burnt from the postimpact fire. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Douglas
Registration: N47HL
Model/Series: DC3 B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator:Commemorative Air Force 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None  

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KBMQ, 1284 ft msl
Observation Time: 1431 UTC
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: 29°C / 21°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 300 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots / , 200°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility:  9 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.08 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Burnet, TX (BMQ)
Destination: Sedalia, MO (DMO) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Serious, 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 4 Serious, 1 Minor, 5 None
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 6 Serious, 1 Minor, 6 None
Latitude, Longitude:  30.737222, -98.238611 (est)

Chris Dowell
 Highland Lakes Squadron, Commemorative Air Force

Thirteen people survived a plane crash at the Burnet Municipal Airport on Saturday morning.

The Burnet County Sheriff's Office said they received a call about the crash around 9:00 a.m.

The plane, a C-47 vintage plane called the "Bluebonnet Belle," crashed during take off, according to the Commemorative Air Force.

The Commemorative Air Force own the plane, which was heading to Oshkosh Wisconsin for an airshow.

All 13 people on board were able to exit the aircraft, according to the Burnet County Sheriff's Office.

One person was airlifted by helicopter to with significant burn injuries to the San Antonio burn unit, according to a spokesperson with the Commemorative Air Force.

The aircraft caught on fire and ignited nearby grass. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the accident.

Raw video:

Story, photo gallery and video ➤

The famed Bluebonnet Belle C47 Skytrain, which assisted in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and was an integral part of the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force, crashed Saturday morning, July 21, at Burnet Municipal Airport's Kate Craddock Field in Burnet while attempting to take off for an air show in Wisconsin.

Fourteen people were aboard the Belle, headed for the annual Oshkosh Air Show when the plane left the runway shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday and crashed before catching fire and eventually exploding. Miraculously, all 14 people aboard the craft survived the crash and made it out of the plane before the explosion.

Video footage of the Belle's takeoff taken and uploaded to Facebook by Matt Gallagher, an Austin-based pilot who was scheduled to take off after the Belle, shows the historic 1944 transport aircraft appear to struggle to get airborne, tilt right and then veer left before digging its left wing into the ground and collapsing upon its landing gear. A second video shows the Belle burning as emergency vehicles respond.

One individual was airlifted to San Antonio Military Medical Center with significant burn injuries, though witnesses at the scene reported he was able to walk out of the crash site. Seven other individuals were transported to Seton Highland Lakes Hospital in Burnet with minor injuries.

The fire spread as well to grass along the runway. Area fire departments, especially the Burnet Fire Department, which is located next door to the airport, and the Burnet Volunteer Fire Department, responded quickly and were able to extinguish the grass fire after keeping it contained.

The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, which had agents on the ground interviewing passengers Saturday morning. 

Dave Hargett, a member of the Highland Lakes Squadron, said the Belle was on its way back to 2018 EEA AirVenture Oshkosh air show, the same show where the Belle had engine trouble in 2015.

Three years ago, the Belle had performed several air jumps in Wisconsin and was going to make a low pass over the airfield when a noise coming from the right engine forced the pilot to land the plane at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

The plane had a crack on the exhaust side of an engine cylinder as well as burn marks and a hole in the baffle and metal particles in the oil, which grounded the Belle in Wisconsin until a new engine could be installed and the plane was returned to Burnet in May 2016.

This is the third aircraft the Highland Lakes Squadron has lost or had grounded due to engine trouble in the past year. A T-6 SNJ Texan advanced trainer is currently grounded after losing an engine during a trip to a Mississippi air show, while the squadron's L-17 Navion reconnaissance airplane is also grounded due to engine trouble, leaving the PT-19 Cornell as the squadron's only operable plane at this time.

The Bluebonnet Belle has long been the featured aircraft at the annual Airsho, held the second weekend of September at the Burnet Municipal Airport by the Highland Lakes Squadron. Officials said the show is expected to continue without the famed aircraft.

“It's a huge loss for the city and for the Commemorative Air Force,” Burnet Mayor Christa Bromley said Saturday. “It was the star attraction for our local airport. We have the SNJ as well, but the Belle was a tremendous asset for the CAF.”

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. Do not see any elevator movement in the video and the elevator is neutral in the stills. Someone forget the control lock?


  2. Another museum pilot destroys another piece of history. It's becoming a common theme.

  3. Amazing everyone was able to get out before the fire. The video seems to show that something was just not right about the takeoff roll. It’s possible the right engine wasn’t developing, or lost, full power. The airplane was probably close to gross weight. It also appeared that the airplane was jerked off the runway rather than slowly lifting off.

  4. My opinion for what it's worth... appears they were having directional control issues during the take-off roll. Whether it was due to poor piloting skills, crosswind, an engine surging, or partial power loss I obviously don't know.

    For whatever reason the plane ran off the left side of the runway into the grass. Normal "instinct" would be to try and pull it off the ground to regain directional control if you're near flying speed (to me they looked slow). In this case it appears that's what the pilot did and being hot and heavily loaded it appears the plane stalled.

    I did not see any elevator movement during the take-off roll but the ailerons and rudder could be seen moving. If I remember correctly the rudder lock and elevator lock are normally connected to each other by a rope so they would both be removed at the same time but I could be wrong.

    Two things surprised me... the first was how strong the landing gear must be because it took a while even sliding sideways before what appeared to be a gear collapse. However, it's possible they may have just slid down into a low spot and that's when the big fog of what I presume was fuel sprayed out. Maybe the wing hit the ground and broke open at that point?

    The second thing is how long it took before the power was pulled back to idle. The plane was sliding sideways before the throttles were pulled back.

    It's sad to see a plane that's been around 74 years and had the history this one did end up a burned out wreck. I'm just thankful everyone made it out alive and pray for those that were injured. It appears to be a true miracle!

  5. Saw a local news story today about this crash. In one of the scenes of the burned out wreckage you can clearly see the horizontal stabilizers are in the "in trail" or neutral position when they would normally be hanging down when the controls are unlocked. You cannot see any external control locks but something is clearly not right with the stabilizers.

  6. June 1971 C-47 (DC-3) crashes at Shelter Cove, CA.
    May 2014 G4 crashes at Bedford, MA.
    All aboard both planes were killed. Cause, gust locks not removed before takeoff. Looks like it happened again. Fortunately, no one was killed.

    Come on pilots, check the controls are free and correct.

  7. Obviously no Tail Dragger pilots here, classic ground loop caused by loss of directional control. Either the pilot wasn’t on the rudder pedals the way he should be possibly aggravated by a wind gust, or engine power fluctuation. BTW you don’t want the elevator down early in the T/O roll. You want it neutral or slightly up to keep weight on the tail wheel for control.

  8. My first thought was gust/control locks not removed, but after looking at the photos and video I don’t think so … just my 2 cents worth. Let’s let the NTSB figure it out, there very good at what they do.

    I think he lost the number 1 engine (left engine).

  9. The aircraft seems to not have been at flying speed upon rotation.

    If lack of power then the takeoff should have been aborted.

    Always hindsight. Glad no one perished.

  10. I looked at numerous DC-3 crash pics on the internet and most show the elevator in a downward position. With the tension on the cables gone due to the burned out fuselage shouldn't gravity cause the elevator to be deflected down yet it's neutral in the pics of this accident. Something doesn't seem right.

  11. I didn't see any flaps down in the video.

  12. First, the guy talking saw something odd, mainly the immediate loss of directional control, evident by the aircraft going off the left side of the runway. Failure of the pilot to abort shows an obvious case of pilot error. The pilot continued the roll, but never lifted the tail, causing the aircraft to lift off and stall, resulting in crash. Could he not lift the tail due to weight? Possible, but you never see the elevators move as if he never tried (or couldn't). I find it interesting that, so far, nobody is talking about what happened, typically meaning they know and don't want anybody to find out. Bottom line, they had PLENTY OF TIME (and cause) to abort the takeoff and failed to do so. The NTSB will rule, they may find some mechanical issue as a contributing factor, but the main cause will be 'Pilot error - failure of the pilot to maintain control of the aircraft, failure of pilot to abort takeoff, resulting in a stall and impact with terrain.'

  13. Gust locks? Can't think that someone forgot these. Or did that aircraft have some different kind?

  14. Someone said, "I didn't see any flaps down in the video."

    A DC-3 (C-47) does not use flaps on takeoff.

  15. Tail never started flying before pilot attempts a rotation. Compare video of this t/o roll to the one shown here -

  16. Jeez, whom are the letting fly these things!?
    Another historically important aircraft destroyed by incompetent pilots.
    The crash video shows a textbook case of poor tail-dragger flying skills.
    And yes, I have extensive tail-wheel time including DC -3 time.

  17. I have to agree with the above comment. If the elevator gust lock was removed before flight, then this was caused by poor tail-dragger flying skills. He never lifted the tail and lost directional control with the rudder causing him to rotate too early in an effort to "save it" only to stall the wing which caused the rocking and contact with the ground. If it wasn't for the post-crash fire, that bird might have been able to be fixed. Hope the injured person will make a full recovery.

  18. Having flown a DC-3 for 72 years (yes, I said 72 years) you never force the tail up on take off.