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P-51 Accident


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Guest pelorus32

There were in fact two accidents with P-51s in quick succession. The other one involved a guy on his first solo on type. He had a bouncer on landing, applied full power to do a GA and torque rolled the a/c inverted.


As for this accident at Oshkosh a very respected warbird pilot, John Deakin, had this to say:


After this column was written, two more Mustangs were involved in a crash during EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, with one fatality. Readers may ask whether these accidents were related.


I don't think so. Both pilots in the Oshkosh crash were well-experienced, although I have no idea how current they were, possibly the key question. Formation flight is very demanding, and like carrier landings and low-level aerobatics, it requires skill, constant practice and currency. I am always shocked at how rusty I feel doing formation after a long layoff and I have to approach it as if starting all over again.


Many think the #2 airplane lost sight of #1. It is not impossible, but I consider it highly unlikely. When in a tight formation, the aircraft you are flying on is your whole world; you don't even want to blink.


You never look away. If you need to check something in the cockpit with your eyes, you move away a bit. More than one wingman has followed the lead right into terrain, for that reason.


Losing sight of the lead is the second-biggest sin in formation flying (the first is hitting someone) and is cause for an instant turn, pull-up, or whatever to clear the area.


Aircraft #1 touched down first and most likely would have had the throttle closed, making a normal landing. Aircraft #2 was higher, still flying, probably with a bit of power kept on just a second or two later. In fact, half a second before the collision, the #1 prop appeared to be turning more slowly than #2 (strobe effect, very brief), so there was not only a closure rate, but more power on #2. By the time he caught it, there was such an overtaking closure rate set up, with no way of stopping it, so he simply overran #1, without enough lateral separation to clear.


It's common enough to get an overtake like that, but most pilots agree that each will take his own side of the runway and move apart laterally in the final few seconds. Spectators can't see that.


One trick in formation landings is to brief the lead aircraft to keep just a touch of power on before, during and after the touchdown. Normally, it's a very bad habit when not in formation, but this is one case where it gives the following aircraft some margin to play with: If he closes his own throttle, any closure will be stopped quickly. Or have the lead use partial flaps, and the followers use full. Better yet, use longitudinal separation, maybe 1/4 mile or more. Even then, if the lead aircraft blows a tire (and tires do blow), there will be a major effort required by the following aircraft to avoid running over the lead.


On takeoff, the lead aircraft normally uses less than full power (sometimes quite a bit less), so that the following aircraft has a margin in which to operate.


I'd be very surprised if the #2 pilot ever lost sight of #1, but now we'll never know.


(Video clip available here.)


Update: Aug. 8, 2007


In the interests of historical accuracy, the above remains as I wrote it -- with incomplete data.


Having now seen further data, and several messages from trusted people who saw the crash, I am now convinced that it was indeed a matter of #2 not seeing #1 until too late, if at all. I do not now believe there was any intent to make any kind of formation landing, beyond the briefed "in-trail" landings.


It is not the first time I've ever had to eat crow, nor will it be the last. It's an excellent example of why we need to wait a bit longer for the data, and why the NTSB often takes a year or more to release findings on accidents.




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