Pilots Safe, Aircraft Damaged
Two vintage biplanes, a 1942 Boeing
Stearman and a 1940 Army-green Waco UPF-7, collided about a mile
off the Palos Verdes Peninsula Saturday afternoon. Both took off
from Torrance Municipal Airport.
Airport officials reported that the propeller of the Stearman
apparently clipped the back side of the Waco not long after it and
a third vintage plane left the airport.
Nobody was seriously injured, although the Waco pilot was taken
to a hospital for examination and then released. Although the
Stearman's propeller was damaged, the pilot managed to return to
Torrance Airport, about seven miles away, where he landed safety,
according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.
According to one report, Ralph Baxter, 82, a former Navy and
airline pilot, was performing acrobatics in his 1940 Waco when his
plane was struck by the Stearman.
Even though the plane's tail was partially shredded, Baxter
steered the Waco toward shore, where it landed in shallow water and
flipped over when one of its wings struck the sand, said Melissa
Kelley, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles city Fire Department.
Ron Holmes had come to the beach to windsurf when he noticed the
Waco flying very low to the shore.
"I thought, man, he's flying at a stall speed," Holmes said
Baxter's seatbelt and he was able to walk to the shore, said
Kelley. He was taken to the hospital and then released.
"He said that he was an acrobatic pilot" and the area is known
as one where pilots can practice aerobatics, Kelley said. After the
accident, the third pilot circled the area to help guide rescue
crews, said a Torrance fire captain.
"These guys all know each other," he said. "There is a group of
them who have been friends for years." When fire crews arrived, he
added, Haggard and others anxiously awaited at the airport for word
about Baxter and his biplane.
"When word came back from the tower that their friend was okay,
they all were cheering," he said. The planes were flying according
to visual flight rules, which require that the pilots "see and be
seen," said Gregor.
Pilots are not required to communicate with air traffic control
in the area, and it is a popular spot for recreational flying. The
cause of the accident is under investigation by the NTSB.