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Tue, Mar 10, 2009

Pilot Hospitalized After TBM Avenger Catches Fire Inflight

Bails Out Of Plane After Emergency Landing

The pilot of a vintage Grumman TBM-3E Avenger torpedo bomber managed to escape the aircraft after it caught fire on takeoff at a New Jersey airport Saturday afternoon.

The Press of Atlantic City reports Terry Rush, 63, had just taken off from Millville Municipal Airport (MIV) in the WWII-era warbird when the left wing caught fire for as-yet undetermined reasons. Rush was able to execute an emergency landing back on the runway, and narrowly escaped the cockpit by running across the right wing as the plane was still rolling, before flames consumed the airframe.

Tom Duffy, who owned the Avenger as well as several other warbirds, was the first person to reach Rush after he bailed out. The paper reports 27 firefighters responded to the emergency call at around 4:40 pm EST Saturday, and extinguished the fire within 10 minutes... though little of the Avenger remained afterward.

Rush was transported to an Upland, PA burn center, where he remained in critical but stable condition Sunday evening. He reportedly suffered second and third-degree burns to his left side and both hands, and is heavily sedated.

Lisa Jester, executive director of the Millville Army Air Field Museum, said Rush is the only other person besides Duffy to work on and fly the latter's airplanes. He was among four pilots who flew Duffy's P-47 Thunderbolts in last year's Millville air show.

"From what Tom told me, they're really anal about keeping up with the aircraft and doing whatever needs to be done," Jester said. "Tom is a safety nut. He has no clue how this could have happened... Terry is an expert. He was able to land it on the runway and avoid crashing into anything else. It could have been a lot worse than it was."

Rush was alert and talking after the accident.

IDENTIFICATION
  Regis#: 188TD        Make/Model: TBM       Description: TBF AVENGER (G-40)
  Date: 03/07/2009     Time: 2145

  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: None     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Destroyed

LOCATION
  City: MILLVILLE   State: NJ   Country: US

DESCRIPTION
  AIRCRAFT FORCE LANDED ON THE RUNWAY,  CAUGHT FIRE AND BURNED, MILLVILLE, NJ

INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   0
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   1
                 # Pass:   0     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   

WEATHER: VFR

OTHER DATA
  Activity: Pleasure      Phase: Landing      Operation: OTHER


  FAA FSDO: TETERBORO, NJ  (EA25)                 Entry date: 03/09/2009

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.ntsb.gov, www.p47millville.org

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