NTSB Reports Probable Cause Of Hughes Racer Replica Crash

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The crash of a Hughes H-1B Racer replica in August 2003 was caused by the loss of a propeller counterweight in flight, the NTSB said in its final report. The pilot then lost control of the airplane during a forced landing attempt and spun into the ground. The crash took place in Yellowstone National Park as pilot James Wright, 53, of Cottage Grove, Ore., who had built the replica, was flying it home from Oshkosh. The propeller was a "highly modified" constant-speed prop with a history of control problems, the safety board said. The NTSB said it found nothing to indicate that Wright, who was killed in the accident, had any physical problems that might have contributed to the crash. Wright was wearing a parachute at the time of the accident. He had told his lead mechanic and several friends that if "something goes wrong, I'm bailing out," the NTSB said. The airplane made its first flight in July 2002. Wright flew the replica to a world-record speed for the airplane's class, reaching 304 mph at Reno, Nev., in September 2002, on the 67th anniversary of Hughes' first record in the original airplane. Howard Hughes himself, the billionaire recluse, died while being flown to the hospital in April 1976.