America’s top aerobatic pilot and air show performer Rob Holland escaped what he now calls ‘catastrophic engine failure’ late Sunday moments after finishing his two-days of performances at the Wings Over South Texas Airshow.
The seven-time U.S. National Aerobatic Champion and four-time World Freestyle Aerobatic Championship was headed home to Shreveport, Louisiana when at 4:45 p.m. CDT, his MXS-RH aircraft experienced engine failure.
Holland, 43, was only fifteen minutes into his departure flight from the air show site at Naval Air Station Kingsville when thick, black oil covered his canopy. Dropping from an altitude of 11,500-feet, Holland quickly used the aid of his GPS to locate a nearby airport.
He had given up on a field landing due to the terrain or parachuting to safety. Instead, Holland located an isolated, closed airport in which he could aim towards. His red and black aerobatic aircraft was now a glider and he worked the aerosurfaces to help slow and aim for the 1,650-foot long runway.
“I lined up on the runway as best I could, still having zero forward visibility,” Rob Holland explained Wednesday evening in a detailed message on social media. “I touched down on the runway at about 90 kts., normal speed for this plane, but with a 20-plus knot tailwind bringing my forward speed to 110kts.”
It was not until seconds prior to touchdown did Holland realize there was a massive obstacle on the old runway. Blinded by his oil clad canopy, he realized with shock that a large section of a home owner’s roof had been dropped near one end of the runway by Hurricane Harvey last August.
“After about 200 ft. of landing roll, the left main landing gear struck that piece of debris ripping the landing gear completely off the plane,” he continued. “The plane skidded on its belly down the runway, departing to the side of the runway, coming to rest about 30 ft. off the right side of the runway. The plane remained upright and straight the entire time.”
Rob confirmed on Wednesday that he is 100% fine.
The aircraft’s 380 horsepower prop engine is a Lycoming, and has a top speed of just over 300 m.p.h. It can allow his aircraft to pull up to 16 G’s, plus or minus.
Last weekend’s south Texas performances was Holland’s first of a busy 23-show site schedule running into early-November. As the entire air show community takes Easter weekend off, he is scheduled to fly again on April 14 and 15 at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airshow.
“The next week or so will be very busy for me moving forward with as little, hopefully none, disruption to my schedule as possible,” he added before thanking his family, friends, and supporters.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and science. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)