It happened on Monday, September 27, 1999 at 12 noon. John Baugh was going to check out a friend in a Swift he had just bought. Beautiful ship. Lovely instrument pane. John thought he would check him out on the grass strip at Lebanon. M54. Runway 22 is listed at 2,000 feet. They lifted off soon enough and got to roof top level but could not establish a climb. The plane stalls at 55 and was going 70 mph but would not climb. John wanted the plane to establish a climb before raising the gear. John looked ahead to the trees and a mountain in the distance and decided to abort the flight. His plan was to land and ground loop. As he approached the end of 22 the crossing runway 1-19 came up. He hit a sign on the side of 19 with the left wing and the left gear hit the lip of 1-19 and folded. The prop ground to a stop and the plane skidded down the runway and off to the south west of 1-19.

John called Charlie Nelson at the Swift Museum to find out what had happened. Charlie said that the Swift, at low power settings, would cavitate. Although it would have flying speed it would not fly and would settle back onto the ground. With Johns extensive experience with the R-22 helicopter he knew to keep up the airspeed and not stall the plane trying to maintain altitude.

The plane rests in the back of the FBO hangar at Lebanon. The right wing and instrument panel reflect the meticulous care and attention that this beautiful plane has received prior to the flight. The left wing is crumpled in front of the bent left gear. The right gear has been retracted and the plane rests on a dolly.

I talked to John about his miraculous experience. He was very matter of fact and spoke to me while running a fork lift that had hoisted a friend up 30 feet so he could decorate the hangar for the up coming weekend celebration. I was on the verge of telling him to raise the gear when the plane started to settle back in. I took the controls and when I added back pressure the plane shuddered. I knew that more back pressure would precipitate a stall so I put it back down on the runway and cut the power. I never saw the sign and did not know we had hit one until I looked at the plane on the ground.

Response from Charlie Nelson, President of the Swift Association.
This swift has the stock 125 hp engine. it is a 6 cylinder lycoming. However, it only develops 125hp at 2550RPM. You see, it has a fixed pitch prop. Now, John Baugh, by his own account, wanted to establish a climb before getting the gear up. According to Charlie Nelson the only way for a stock engine plane to fly is to get the nose down, retract the gear and flaps and let it accelerate to 120mph. At the lower speeds it has a high angle of attack with increased drag and the prop only turns over 2250rpm which equates to 90hp. Charlie refers to the speed between 60 mph and 120 mps as "NEVER NEVER LAND". At that speed the engine only puts out 90 hp and there is too much drag for the plane to accelerate. Once the gear is up with the plane in ground effect it can accelerate, much as a helicopter goes through the critical speed of 45mph to establish translational lift. By thinking that he had to have an established climb rate before raising the gear, John made it impossible for the prop to accelerate to 2550rpm. With full fuel (28 gallons) and a 180 lb person and an over 200 lb owner the plane required an experienced Swift pilot for proper flight.

Charlie is quick to point out that John's quick thinking saved their lives. He recounted one incident in which two pilots tried to make a swift fly and at 55 feet it rolled over and did a split S right into the ground. Charlie said that with full fuel and two big people in a 125hp plane on a warm day with no wind it is absolutely critical that you have a long paved runway. Take off and while in ground effect retract the gear and get the nose down to accelerate. Charlie said he would never try it with less than 3,000 feet. My impression is that the plane did well in ground effect and if the gear had been raised early, flying speed adequate for extended flight, could have been reached. With gear and flaps down, the plane just did not have enough power to overcome the drag. John probably used flaps for the short grass field take off and did not want to raise the flaps until he had adequate airspeed. The Swift has a critical wing and just will not fly without adequate airspeed. At the low speed and high angle of attack the drag created by the wing alone requires more horse power than they had. Add to this the drag of the gear and flaps and you have a uncorrectable situation.

--- wrote:
> Hi Dudley,
> Good to hear from you and thanks for filling me in on swift mishap.  I had 
> heard your story and had also heard engine quit.  At any rate I'm glad nobody 
> was hurt.  Got to keep these little engines on the runway for a good long 
> time.  No such thing as short field take off in 125hp swift.  My minimums on 
> grass are 3000.


Here is a reply from Hank Williamson a retired USAF F111 pilot who flies the SF260 like it should be flown. He is the airport manager at SYI.
Dudley, I hadn't heard from you for awhile, I figured you'd augered in...glad I was wrong.

I disagree with you on ground effect. While it's true ground effect was probably all they had at the time, retracting the gear and flaps might not have allowed them to accelerate to a safe flying speed. Had they cleaned up and tried to climb they'd have lost what ground effect they had and might not have been able to clear the obstacles you mentioned. At any rate, all that was damaged was metal and pride--both will heal. When I was learning to fly the T-38 a wise old instructor once told me that if you decide to abort a takeoff after decision speed (the speed after which you cannot abort and remain on the runway) it's far better to go off the end of the runway at a low speed than at a high speed with afterburners smoking. After some thought, I agreed. Still, it's awfully hard to stop flying a crippled airplane.

Hank makes an excellent point. On that short runway it would have been foolish to try to retract the gear and raise the flaps and stay in ground effect because getting out of ground effect might have resulted in a stall into the trees.