Billed as the “most badass bushplane,” Mike Patey’s modified Wilga called DRACO suffered a devastating and, unfortunately, tremendously public accident today trying to leave Reno, Nevada, after the air races. “It was definitely my fault,” he says in a confessional video published today. “So silly, so dumb … I hope you guys learn from this,” he says in the video. “I am so bummed right now.”
“I took off, got a big gust. I should have [taken] another runway, or not [been] flying,” Patey says as he records the post-accident scene. In videos of the attempted takeoff, the PT6-powered bushplane can be seen starting the takeoff roll then the left wing rises and the nose pitches up. Almost immediately after, the right wing digs into the dirt alongside the runway and DRACO begins a ground loop to the right. By the time it’s turned nearly 180 degrees, the tail drops and makes contact with the ground as the airplane continues rotating to the right, then the right wing rises and the left wing makes contact with the ground.
Patey describes the beginning of the takeoff with strong crosswinds, saying that he felt the wind begin to lift the left wing and “completely compress my right suspension.” The list is clearly visible in the video. “Then I had a wind bump like nothing I’d ever felt. It lifted the left wing the rest of the way and turned the belly directly to the wind. I had no aileron control. I’ve never felt like a kite in my entire life,” he says.
Patey took the blame head on. People were asking “if anything went wrong … no. Nothing went wrong but me. Nobody’s hurt,” he said, then pointing to his heart, “except here.”
DRACO, a modified Wilga with 680 SHP, drooped ailerons, massive flaps and leading-edge devices, has demonstrated genuinely mind-bending short takeoff and landing performance. Patey’s Wilga was the final serial number of the Wilga 2000 produced in the early 2000s. It was developed to be the ultimate high-elevation bushplane.