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Fri, Apr 06, 2007

Pilot In Lake Powell Crash Says He Wasn't 'Skimming'

But Others Continue To Do So, Despite Risks

Skimming... water skiing... or aqua-planing -- with a real, live airplane -- has become famous on the internet since pictures of the Harvard Aerobatics team, lead by Capt. Scully Levine, participated in a "water ski" event where they aqua-planed four Harvards on Klipdrift Dam near Potchefstroom, South Africa.

This stunt may be okay for highly trained aerobatic pilots, under supervised conditions... but not for others. So, when Randy Brooks crashed his Cirrus SR22 into Lake Powell approximately six weeks ago, accusations flew that he had attempted to mimic the Harvards' stunt. Brooks maintains he has never skimmed, and is merely the victim of Internet rumors. In fact, he says he'd never heard of skimming until a federal investigator asked him about it. 

"We were sight-seeing," Brooks said. "I thought I was higher than I was. The water was glassy smooth, I lost depth perception. And we just lit on the water."

As Aero-News reported, the pilot, his brother and famed Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner survived the February 25 accident.

There is no evidence to back up claims that he was doing anything illegal; skimming would be considered "reckless flying."

But it's clear some pilots do skate their planes on water. In fact, according to local photographer Andre Delgalvis, somebody skimmed Lake Powell just last week. Delgalvis recorded it in his journal at 11:28 last Wednesday morning. Four or five planes roared overhead. Two dropped to the water. One put his wheels in it. No pictures were taken.

"And he went around a curve. And we watched him until he was completely out of sight and his wheels were skating on top of the water. And it was the craziest thing I could imagine," Delgalvis said. "That was the most horrific thing I've seen on this lake as far as people doing just totally stupid things."

Brooks continued to say deliberately skimming his model of aircraft, a Cirrus SR22, would amount to suicide. The Internet suspicions bothered him at first, he says, but now he's getting a thick skin. "I just kind of let it roll off my back. The people that know me -- know me. And that's good enough."

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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