BURNS FLAT, OKLAHOMA — On a morning that seemed perfect for flying, a small crowd of airplane enthusiasts gathered to watch the only airworthy Bugatti 100P attempt its third test flight.
It was just before 8:20 Saturday morning.
The aircraft took off safely, but less than a minute later witnesses say it banked suddenly left and crashed nose first into a field just north of the Clinton -Sherman Air Field.
Eyewitness crew member Aldert Van Nieuwkoop said, “It wasn’t climbing at a very high rate. The next thing that I saw was a very sharp turn to left and down she went.”
Within seconds the wood frame craft caught fire.
A chase helicopter landed quickly to give aid but the pilot, Scotty Wilson, likely died on impact.
Wreckage smoldered for the next hour as horrified family and flight crew members could only watch helplessly.
“Of course everybody is in a state of shock,” said crew assistant chief Stan Shumway. “It’s not every day you see a friend go down like that. We don’t know what happened. We will try to find that out as time goes on.”
The historic airplane, shown here in the hours immediately before the crash, was more than 7 years in the planning and construction.
It was a replica of Etorre Bugatti’s original design for a light weight and very fast fighter airplane.
Designers had to mothball the project during World War II.
As a result the original airplane never flew.
“I call it the most historically significant airplane that never flew,” said Scotty Wilson in an earlier interview.
Wilson sought expert advice and funding from all over the world.
The project consumed his professional life and both a fighter pilot and test pilot.
In March of 2014 we caught up with the new Bugatti 100P as it neared completion in Tulsa.
Early Saturday morning Scotty busied himself with attaching miniature cameras to his plane.
Another camera team was to follow and record the Bugatti in flight.
Friend and colleague Shumway described Wilson, “With 11,000 hours in the cockpit, type rated in 12 different kinds of aircraft, he was the best guy in the world to build this.”
Crew members said later this third test flight was to be the last.
Wilson and crew planned to put it on permanent display at a museum in Great Britain.
Its final resting place, instead, is a bean field near Burns Flat.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived Saturday afternoon to begin an inquiry into the crash.