The pilot and builder of a one-third scale B-29 hit a dip in the grass runway and lost control of the big homebuilt before it hit a golf cart and injured a female videographer at Glenndale Airport in Kokomo, Indiana, last November. In the very short final report on the unusual mishap, the NTSB says Tom Hodgson was on a test flight of his elaborate project and was rolling out after landing when he told investigators the nose gear hit a “depression” in the turf. “The airplane yawed to the left, departed the runway surface, and struck a golf cart with a spectator, that was parked on the edge of the runway.” She suffered minor injuries.

The aircraft, which Hodgson had spent years building, incurred damage to both wings in the mishap. The aircraft uses four Honda Fit car engines with belt drive reductions for power. At 35% scale, it’s about 35 feet long with a wingspan of almost 50 feet. The aircraft was built from scratch by Hodgson.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


    • It’s a complex experimental and a first flight.
      He got off lucky that no one at the field was killed.

  1. Perhaps it would be preferable to limit toy airplanes to 5 kg in the US also. Beautiful models can be built within that limit that pose a small threat to the general public. Model aircraft radio control systems are required to accept interference from other sources (cell phones mostly) but may not cause interference to other users. A Honda Fit engine produces about 130 hp. At 12 lb/hp the model would weigh about 1500 lbs. Would a reasonable licensed pilot make a ground controlled approach to a grass strip with spectators on the verge of the runway? I would not fly a 5 kg model with people or animals on the verge. Indeed, our club prohibits that.

    I still build and fly models and wish that threats to that wonderful hobby/sport would just go away. It is possible to spend a day flying a model for a total cost of not much more that $100, say $5,000 per year. The major expense is transportation to and from the flying site needless to say (SUV or PU is common). Very different from “full scale” but just as enjoyable for some of us.

    • This was not a radio-controlled “toy” airplane. It’s a 50 foot wingspan, 2 person, homebuilt aircraft. Mr. Hodgson, 78 years of age, is full-scale pilot with 20,000 hours of flight time. Also, modern 2.4GHz model radio control systems use digital spread spectrum technology and are practically immune to interference. Responsible modelers don’t fly near populated areas. Our major expense is leasing or acquiring a suitable place to fly.

        • James, thank you for that! I was in the process of a reply to Mr. Holden, who apparently had not read the NTSB report or viewed the numerous videos on the aircraft. The plane was about 10 years in the making (a true labor of love). The aircraft was flown out of a privately owned but public use airport. I would think the airport also needs to share some responsibility for the access of the golf cart “driver”. I believe this represents the most basic form of “Homebuilding” aircraft. Built and designed from scratch!

    • I know a RC modeler who had more $$$ in one of his model helicopters than I had in my first homebuilt which I bought as an uncompleted project and finished. I tried RC and no matter how I wiggled my thumbs and fingers, my feet stayed on the ground. For me, these two factors made RC not enjoyable at all LOL

  2. From the video it appears the sides of the runway was lined with spectators much to close. Hope the plane is rebuilt and the person hit fully recovers.

  3. If memory serves, there is also a 1/3 scale B-17 that has flown (with a pilot aboard) at least a couple of times and once at AirVenture? I am amazed at the patience and craft of these folk. I had problems finishing rubber-powered balsa and tissue airplanes as a youngster.

  4. That’s why I conducted my test flights of both my homebuilts in relative secrecy. Only a select few were invited. All were pilots and builders themselves and knew to stay well clear. An audience is just a distraction and *can* invite trouble.

  5. I agree with the comments that point out the lack of control and safety with the spectators. Much too close to the runway and the carts running around with their backs to the approaching aircraft is not a great thing. EAA recommends a relative secrecy for the first flight, as svanarts points out.

  6. EAA and other organizations have excellent guidance on flight test cards for home built first flights. It is a series of flights to deliberately and carefully open up the flight envelope and test the airplane systems. It most certainly doesn’t include YeeHaw low passes with spectators lined up down the side of the runway.

    I admire the dedication and skill of the builder/pilot and the pride he must have in his creation, but this whole flight was a bad idea.

  7. I’m not excusing the lack of crowd control, but if Mr. Hodgson lives and built his project in a small town, it was probably on the local news several times during the construction and the initial flight was a well known “secret”. Even with an attempt at crowd control, new reporters are notorious for not listening to the rules and are always jockeying for the ideal spot to locate their cameras. Just look at any NFL football game and you can see reporters and photographers crowding the sidelines and end zones to get their “special” picture. I hope she has a full recovery, but the videographer probably bears some responsibility for being where she was.

    To KckC: I have seen a number of builders that have more money in a model plane or helicopter than I spent on my car. Impressive, but all too many end in a pile of sticks and paper. Model helicopters are particularly challenging to fly, especially to hover. I finally gave up and switched to small quadcopters that have much better built-in stability control. Not as challenging, but you rarely wind up with a pile of toothpicks that took you years to build.

  8. I don’t think spectators are that bad, it’s an airpark, would be hard to do it in secret. Hope the airplane and spectator aren’t hurt too bad. Awesome achievement!