Pilot unhurt after landing plane without front wheel at Bremerton airport

Port Orchard pilot Clarke Coulter managed to land his Pulsar airplane without a front wheel on Wednesday at Bremerton National Airport. - Kevan Moore/staff photo
Port Orchard pilot Clarke Coulter managed to land his Pulsar airplane without a front wheel on Wednesday at Bremerton National Airport.
— image credit: Kevan Moore/staff photo

Port Orchard resident Clarke Coulter is the kind of guy you’d want to be your pilot in the event of a plane crash.

About 40 minutes after taking off from Bremerton National Airport in his homemade Pulsar XP Series 1 aircraft on Wednesday, Coulter got a radio call from folks on the ground informing him that they found a nose-wheel that looked a lot like his.

“In talking to them, I knew it was mine,” Coulter said. “They had me do a flyby and said, ‘You don’t have nose gear.’”

Coulter didn’t panic and, in fact, doesn’t really ever seemed to have broken a sweat.

“I knew I’d step out of it and walk away,” he said. “I also knew the airplane was gonna get some damage and I tried to minimize it the best I could. I wasn’t the least bit concerned about me.”

Several folks on the ground, though, including fire crews, police officers, pilots, Port of Bremerton staff and others, were quite concerned.

Shortly after Coulter took off at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, airport crews were informed by a passing motorist that an item fell from a plane. Upon inspection, the nose-wheel was located on the north end of the runway. Coulter had no idea that the wheel was missing until he was raised on the radio. After the flyby confirmation, Coulter decided to attempt a landing at the south end of the runway.

“I know somebody who did the same thing to hers and did a lot more damage, but she landed at about 70 mph,” he said. “I was much slower than that, purposely.”

Coulter got his plane below stall speed, or 46 mph, and hoped for the best as he set it down with two main wheels.

“As soon as the mains came down, the nose came down because I was below stall speed,” he said. “I wanted to shut the engine down, but I didn’t have enough hands.”

The single propeller splintered and broke apart and the plane had a lot of other damage underneath the hood. Coulter doesn’t think it will ever fly again.

“It’s a matter of being able to repair it so it’s structurally sound and airworthy,” he said. “I’ve got doubts that it will be. I think this will probably be it.”

The plane had 811 hours of airtime and Coulter said he has made six trips in it to Kansas for Pulsar conventions. He decided to build it in his garage after retiring as postal inspector. While building it, his wife told him it would probably be a good idea to get a pilot’s license in order to fly it and Clarke got his in 1997.

“It was kind of a cart before the horse thing,” Coulter joked shortly after getting the damaged plane back into its hangar.

Coulter said he has never had an incident of note until Wednesday. He says he’s a fair-weather flier and Wednesday was definitely a fair-weather day with blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. Everything was just fine until the wheel of his plane fell off and he got the radio call from the ground.

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