A few years ago, Kyle Franklin allowed me to put up a video of his Drunken Pilot act as a part of the Franklin’s Flying Circus & Airshow. At the time, the video was only available as a download, so I was proud to have the chance to offer it as streaming video on my website.

Fear of Landing » Drunk steals plane at airshow

It won’t surprise you that the video became one of the most popular pages on Fear of Landing over the next few weeks.

Kyle Franklin and his wife Amanda make a great team: they are both pilots but Amanda is also a talented wingwalker. This video on YouTube shows the talent and skill that the couple have:

So it was with great dismay that I read about the air accident at last week at the Brownsville Air Fiesta, when the engine failed while Amanda was on the wing.

The NTSB has posted a preliminary report:

CEN11LA228

On March 12, 2011, about 1500 central standard time, a Waco UPF-7 airplane, N30136, collided with the ground following a loss of engine power while maneuvering during an air show performance at Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport (BRO), Brownsville, Texas.

The commercial pilot and passenger sustained serious injuries. A postaccident fire partially consumed the fuselage. The airplane was registered to Jim Franklin Aviation Service, Inc., Ruidoso, New Mexico, and operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an air show flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The flight originated from BRO approximately 1445.

According to the pilot’s representative and several witness videos, the airplane was maneuvering when the engine lost power. The passenger, a wing-walker, was on top of the wing at the time the engine experienced the problem. The wing-walker immediately entered the forward cockpit seat and the pilot initiated a forced landing. The airplane impacted the ground adjacent to the runway. The pilot observed no unusual indications on the engine instruments prior to the loss of engine power.

Examination of the airplane revealed the fuselage sustained fire damage. The main landing gear collapsed and the airplane came to rest upright. An unspecified amount of fuel was noted in the center wing fuel tank.

There is a short video clip in which you can see Amanda climb off the wing and into the cockpit before the plane goes down.

Matt Younkin, Amanda’s brother and Kyle’s brother in law, sent an email out regarding the accident, asking for it to be forwarded to all interested parties. In it, he gives the details of the accident which he witnessed:

When the engine quit, Amanda was on the top wing in the rack. Kyle continued to fly the airplane in a straight and level fashion as long as he could to give Amanda every opportunity to unstrap and get into the front cockpit where she would have the best chance in the event of a hard landing. He also resisted the tendency to turn for the pavement which typically induces a fatal stall/spin situation. He avoided a landing in the pyro field which could have proven to be fatal, and faced with the only other option of land in mesquite woods, Kyle landed into the wind drastically reducing the forward speed at impact. Upon reaching the scene, I noticed that he set the airplane down in the only Waco sized piece of ground in that dense woods that didn’t have tall trees in it. Kyle sustained the majority of his burns trying to pull his wife from the wreckage and when his efforts produced no results, he stayed in the cockpit and transmitted a repeating distress call about the post impact fire that had started. I honestly believe this motivated the rapid responders to press through the brush and douse the airplane at a more rapid rate which meant the split second difference that saved Amanda, who was still in the plane.

Their Facebook fan page is being updated daily. Kyle appears to be recovering well and Amanda’s progress so far seems positive.

Amanda’s out of surgery and everything went perfect!!! They were able to remove the majority of her burned tissue and have even started grafting procedures. This surgery was performed several days earlier than normal due to Amanda’s youth and excellent physical health. She is a real fighter and is progressing ahead of schedule.

The worst of Kyle’s injuries were some 3rd degree burns on his right arm. They anticipate him being in the hospital for another week, two at most. He could not stress to me enough that he is fine and that he will make a full and speedy recovery. He wants everybody’s prayers and healing thoughts directed towards Amanda. I reminded him that there are a LOT of people thinking of them and that there are enough prayers to cover them both.

I’d like to join the hundreds of well-wishers on Facebook commending Kyle’s fast reactions and wishing Amanda a fast and full recovery from her burns.