The malfunction of propeller counterweights is blamed for the crash of the Wright Hughes H-1B. The airplane, a reproduction of the sleek Howard Hughes racer, was built by a team of mechanics under the guidance of tool manufacturer Jim Wright from Cottage Grove, Ore. The airplane crashed Aug. 4, 2003, while en route from EAA AirVenture to Wright’s home. The H-1B, which had been on exhibit at the event, was built with the intent of reenacting Hughes’ speed trials from the 1930s.
According to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board, the loss of a counterweight in flight caused one blade of the highly modified Hamilton Standard 12D40 hub propeller to achieve low pitch while the other blade maintained high pitch. Witnesses who saw Wright during his last fuel stop in Gillette, Wyo., told investigators that he took off, then returned to the airport because the propeller was stuck in the high rpm position. Wright commented that the controllable pitch propeller was not working correctly and attempted to make repairs.
Wright was killed when he lost control of the aircraft while attempting to make an emergency landing in Yellowstone National Park near Midway Geyser. Witnesses to the crash stated that it appeared Wright was attempting to land on a footpath but veered off at the last second when he saw people below him.
On Dec. 17, 2003, the Oregon Department of Aviation honored Wright by rededicating his home airport, Cottage Grove State Airport (61S), as Jim Wright Field.