|The Lark of Duluth reproduction being towed to shore Tuesday. Photo from the International Biplane Association Facebook page.
July 17, 2013 - The Lark of Duluth reproduction of a Benoist Flying Boat Type XIV, the airplane that flew the world's first scheduled airline service a century ago, was significantly damaged during a test flight Tuesday morning on St. Louis Bay near Sky Harbor Airport in Duluth. Pilot and chief builder Mark Marino was not injured.
The airplane was expected to be displayed in the Vintage area at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013, but Marino said that appearance doesn't look likely.
"We have a broken airplane," he said on Wednesday. "It was a successful flight, but an unsuccessful landing."
The airplane had made three successful high-speed taxi runs on the water last weekend as a part of the Lark O' the Lake Festival. According to a statement released by the Duluth Aviation Institute, Marino was attempting to complete the airplane's first flight. He had departed Sky Harbor Airport and was pilot in command when the incident took place on the water in St. Louis Bay.
"Of course the Institute is disappointed with this setback," said Sandra Ettestad, president of the Institute. "The airframe did what it was supposed to do, protect the pilot. We are very grateful that the pilot, Mark, was not injured. That is the most important issue.
"We are now more committed to this historical journey and have gained more knowledge about the Lark's flying characteristics. The airplane will be repaired and we will continue to preserve our aviation heritage."
The building crew is evaluating the damage to the Lark's structure and they believe it is very repairable. "Rebuilding the Lark will be done in a careful and timely manner," the statement concluded.