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 panel. 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 into ground effect.

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 The right gear has been retracted and the plane rests on a dolly.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 unfortunate 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.

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.

A comment from a 125hp Swift owner
--- Swift757@aol.com 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.
More from Charlie Nelson, President of the Swift Association.

The 125PH Swift, with a fixed pitch prop, only develops 90 hp on the initial takeoff run. Once airborn, and while in ground effect, it is still only turning up 2,100 rpm and developing 90HP. To get adequate HP for flight out of ground effect you must get above 90mph. That speed between liftoff at 55mph and 90mph is called NO MAN'S LAND. This is the speed at which you do not turn up enough RPM to fly out of ground effect. Also, out of ground effect at the low airspeeds, you have a high angle of attack which creates tremendous drag which makes acceleration almost impossible. So you have two critical problems to deal with. First is the lack of horse power at the low RPM's and second is the tremendous drag at airspeeds below 120 mph.

What John Baugh did was to save two lives. He never could have developed enough engine RPM to get the horse power he needed to fly in such a short space.

For more on the crash read this link.