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A biplane racer sits in a hangar after being damaged in a runway mishap Wednesday in Vinton.

A biplane racer who won a major event at last year's Nationals in Reno, Nevada, saw his hopes for victory again this year dashed after a runway mishap at the Vinton airport Wednesday.

Brett Schuck of Elkhart, Ind., made a fuel stop in Vinton as he attempted to complete the 1,766.33 mile flight from his home town to the race site.

But Schuck's landing gear broke when his wheel touched down, causing the plane to skid along the runway on its nose. The pilot escaped injury, but the plane's wings and propellers, along with the landing gear, were damaged.

The plane, called Fowl Play, is an aerobatic sporting biplane known as the Christen Eagle II. Last year, Schuck won some heat races and the Biplane Bronze First Place Trophy with a red and white biplane he called Warrior's Creed.

Events at the Reno National Air Races begin this weekend, with most races taking place next weekend.

The cause of the mishap is still under investigation, but some local pilots say the condition of the runways at the Vinton airport is either a factor, or perhaps the cause of the incident.

"This runway is not safe," said Shane Ohman, a crop duster who frequently flies out of Vinton, and was there when the incident happened. The runway's defects include a large bump where the two runways intersect. Pointing to another plane, Ohman said that plane's pilot recently hit a bump and ended up in the grass along the runway.

A pilot who agrees is John Stiegelmeyer, a former military and commercial pilot who now flies a plane he built.

"The intersection of 16-34 and 9-27 is one of the worst I have been exposed to," said Stiegelmeyer. "Taking off to the South on 16 hitting the intersection of 9-27 gets me airborne before I wish. I have to fly in ground effect to gain airspeed over stall before I can climb. Some other instructors at other airports do not want their students to land or take off on this runway. I also get a bounce taking off to the West on 27. During first 40 hours of tests on 717JR, I took one of the Commission members to illustrate the hazard. Low performance aircraft do not get the same effect. So nothing was done. Likely the Caravan of the sky divers doesn't have a problem here either."

Former Airport Commissioner Tom Boeckmann, however, said that he has not heard of any problems concerning that portion of the runway.

"It has not been a problem in the past but I'm no longer a commissioner so don't know if they have issues now," said Boeckmann.

However, he adds, the runway needs a lot of work, but there is no money for it. Hangars are grant-funded with the federal and state governments often paying 90 percent of the cost. The local match formula, however, is different for runways, leaving cities to absorb more of the expense.

Another pilot, Rick Hadley, said he has not used the runway for the past three years, but remembers "a bit of a bump there at the intersection."

Yet, said Hadley: "I never had a problem with it, particularly not on landing. Taking off to the south, I'd often start my run to the south of the intersection to avoid it, but that was because I was flying a very light tail-dragger and it was just transitioning the weight from the wheels to the wing right about there. As I say, I personally never found it to be a major problem, but again, I don't know if it's gotten worse in three years or not."

Hadley said his guess is that the pilot "probably lost control due to a gust of wind just as he crossed the intersection."

Wednesday's weather was mostly sunny but windy, with gusts higher than 20 mph.

"It's 18, gusting 23 out there at the moment and that's pretty strong even for an experienced pilot," Hadley said.

Schuck and his companions left the airport to look for a rental car to drive to Reno, leaving the damaged plane locked in a hangar.

See Schuck's racing page HERE.

Below is a video of Schuck racing at the Nationals in Reno in 2013:



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Great Music, what is the info on it?
By: Fred Junod on September 4th 4:12pm

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