by John Johnson, staff writer
RICHMOND, VA—In what has been described by local and national officials as “possibly the most astounding flatulatory event in all of recorded history,” pilot William Harper, 41, of Richmond broke wind in his airplane just after takeoff from Hanover County Municipal Airport on Monday afternoon, completely destroying the aircraft.The 2000 Piper Seminole, capable of reaching altitudes of higher than 14,000 feet, was only at an altitude of three feet when the severely bloated Harper “ripped off the biggest fart I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” according to passenger Jon Kilbourne, 37. “We had just lifted off the ground, when suddenly he pinches one off—loud—and the entire plane just falls apart. Damn, that boy needs to control his gas.” Amazingly, neither Kilbourne nor Harper were seriously hurt.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sandra Metcalf, the National Transportation Safety Board agent in charge of investigating the accident. “I mean, my husband—um, passes gas a lot, but I’ve only ever seen the bedsheets puff out a little. To utterly destroy an aircraft such as the twin-engine Piper Seminole, there must have been some serious pressure built up in that bowel of his.”
A spokesperson for The New Piper Aircraft Company, Inc. expressed surprise over the incident. “Our airplanes are thoroughly tested and designed to withstand even the harshest of nature’s often brutal forces—updrafts, downdrafts, crosswinds, and severe turbulence,” said Ken Middlefield, customer relations director for Piper. “Unfortunately, one cannot foresee every possible circumstance, and in the case of Mr. Harper, a two to three hundred knot wind originating inside the cockpit far exceeded the structural limits of the aircraft.
Middlefield expressed sympathy over the situation, and said his company would offer limited financial support to Harper, mainly for medical attention. “We’d like to see him seek medical help for his…well, his ass. I mean, come on, that’s just crazy.”
Although the NTSB is still investigating, the cause of the accident has thus far been classified as “pilot error.”
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