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Fri, Sep 05, 2008

Pilot OK Following Sadler Vampire Accident

Plane Destroyed Following Emergency Landing In Quarry

A two-seat experimental Sadler Vampire made a forced landing in a rock quarry in Findlay, OH on Wednesday, after reportedly losing power. The plane was destroyed in a post-crash fire, but we're happy to say the 24-year-old pilot walked away with minor injuries.

The Findlay Courier reports 24-year-old Barak Mowry, described as "a licensed pilot and instructor," told local police he was on a test flight, and lost power after departing the Findlay Airport. When he realized he was over a residential area, he recalled maneuvering toward the Tarbox-McCall Quarry, owned by National Lime and Stone. The pit is no longer producing, but is used as a dump for masonry materials.

Mowry managed to avoid the water-filled portion of the quarry, and even put the plane down on an elevated spot, but slid over the edge and dropped about 50 feet before coming to a stop on a flat, dry area.

Utility worker James Stewart was on his way to a call when he says he saw the plane in trouble. "We saw it go over, and it was dropping pretty fast," he said. "I knew it was in a tough spot."

Stewart said he climbed over an eight-foot fence separating the parking lot of a tire plant from the quarry, then scrambled down to where the plane had stopped bouncing. "He was just getting out when I got there. I walked him back to a rocky area, and by that time it was on fire."

After another witness used a mobile phone to call 911 at 12:56 pm, there was some confusion as to which quarry was the scene of the accident. When they arrived a short time later, firefighters had to rappel down to the plane with handheld extinguishers to put out the fire. Findlay Police Chief Bill Spraw told the Toledo Blade the aircraft is a total loss.

The FAA was reportedly on-scene Thursday to investigate. Findlay Airport Manager Robert Johnston told The Blade that Mowry had mentioned an engine heat problem shortly before the accident, and said he'd be testing, but didn't expect to fly. Airport personnel later heard Mowry's radio call departing on runway 7, followed by sightings of black smoke.

The Sadler Vampire has one of the most interesting pedigrees of any small aircraft. In 1982, Bill Sadler won the Grand Champion Ultralight award at Oshkosh with his mid-wing, twin tailboom pusher. After about 30 were built in the US, and the design licensed briefly to an Australian firm, further commercial success proved elusive.

In the 1990s, the plane was reincarnated as the Piranha, an attack and surveillance plane for the Turkish military. The Piranha was a Vampire with a reinforced airframe, retractable gear, a 450-horsepower engine, a 30mm cannon, and mounts for up to a half-ton of rockets or small bombs. The Turks discontinued the program.

At EAA AirVenture 2007, Sadler brought the design back as the two-seat Vampire LSA (shown above), with fixed landing gear, a longer folding wing, and Rotax 912 power. By Lakeland this year, Sadler had fitted the plane with a twin-rotor RotaMax Wankel-cycle engine.

Aero-News has confirmed the accident aircraft featured a RotaMax powerplant, but it's not clear in what configuration. RotaMax recently settled on an Australian-sourced propeller speed reduction unit as standard equipment, but the Vampire parked at the enginemaker's AirVenture booth this year sported a small-diameter propeller configured for direct-drive, with no gearbox.

As of late Thursday, RotaMax had declined comment on the incident.

Sadler is currently working towards S-LSA certification for the Vampire, with an eye towards offering the aircraft as an E-LSA kit as well. It's unknown how Wednesday's mishap will affect that plan.

FMI: www.sadleraircraft.com, www.rotamax.com

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