A bumpy landing on the airstrip at Nehalem Bay State Park led to two casualties: a pair of elk.
“It was a real surprise to see them, I was not sure what might have spooked them but I knew we were going to hit the cow,” said Todd Rudberg. “At first I didn’t even see the bull, but it was all happening very fast.”
Rudberg was piloting a 2003 Vans RV8, single engine, fixed wing plane. An aircraft he decided to build in 2003 as an homage to his father, who first introduced him to flying. He wanted to take the plane out for the day from Washington and decided to invite a friend, Valerie Villacin along for a day in the air to Manzanita and back.
According to Rudberg they had already touched the aircraft’s wheels down to the runway and were going pretty fast when, for reasons still unknown, a pair of Roosevelt Elk ran in front of the plane as it was still going at approximately 50 miles per hour.
“Once I saw her and knew we were going to hit I pinned it and pulled nose-up,” said Rudberg. “The prop struck her first and she hit the rear landing gear, at that point I saw the bull hit my left wing, which spun me into a ground-loop.”
The two elk were killed upon impact, however both pilot and passenger made it through the ordeal unscathed.
“Of course my immediate concern was for my passenger,” Rudberg said. “But once we both figured out we were okay my thoughts went to the plane.”
Perhaps by a stroke of luck, Rudberg decided to insure the aircraft this year for this type of event and according to him the damage looks pretty extensive. Citing visible wreckage to the aircraft, Rudberg figures the engine would need a complete overhaul and the airframe is likely totaled. However, Rudberg mentioned he had not heard back from his insurance company yet about the damages.
Rudberg, who got his pilot’s license in 2001, has put more than 2,000 hours in the air. Building the airplane with his father, they both started the custom project in 2003. After his father passed away in 2006 it became a passion of Rudberg’s to finish the plane.
“I had just re-done a great deal of it this last winter,” said Rudberg. “I had just worked 100 percent of the bugs out of it and got the plane up and running perfectly, I’m not thrilled with what’s happened but we both walked away from it.”
Rudberg said he’s not going to allow this incident dissuade him from getting back into the air but he admitted it may be some time before he finds out what he’s going to fly.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has temporarily closed the airstrip at Nehalem Bay State Park while the incident is under investigation. Numerous law enforcement and state agencies took part in the response including the Oregon State Police, Manzanita Police Department, Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue as well as Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation from Nehalem Bay State Park. It is reported that a large quantity of elk meat was salvaged from the incident by the responding Fish and Wildlife State Troopers.