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Phil Perry

Polish WW2 Mosquito pilot Deadstick landing

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Posted (edited)

This short tale of WW2 was written by the Son he never lived to see.

 

Although their luck was destined to last no longer than a few weeks more, Mosquito pilot (Dad left) and navigator (Zygmunt right) were incredibly lucky 75 years ago today. It was late afternoon on Wednesday 5 July 1944. Dad’s diary entry (translated) :- 
 

‘1944 (5th July) Wednesday. Landed machine without engines at Church Fenton then night patrol 2.05 hrs in the same machine’.

They had taken Mosquito NFXII Serial no HK234 (similar to pictured) up for a test flight after mechanical work and were returning back to their squadron base at RAF Church Fenton in Yorkshire about to commence their landing approach when suddenly both engines simultaneously cut out. Basic engineering design was supposed to eliminate such a thing, but it had happened. There was an emergency training procedure for single engined landings, but not for no engines. In terms of contemporaneous records of emergencies even with one engine, the chances of them emerging unscathed with their aircraft undamaged were slim. With both engines U/S, chances were effectively zero. 
 

The undercarriage and landing flaps were still up, and because both engines were dead, the undercarriage and landing flap hydraulic operating system was also dead. A Mosquito weighed anywhere between 6 ½ to 10 tons deadweight depending on fuel and load carried. It was no glider.
 

An emergency hydraulic pump operated by a lever bar stowed in the cockpit door could be used by means of a socket on the floor for manually lowering the undercarriage. It was supposed to require between 200-300 strokes and take 3-4 minutes. They had nothing like that time and only one slim chance to get the emergency approach right. While Dad wrestled to prevent a stall and commence a fast nosedive landing approach onto the grass, with or without undercarriage, Zygmunt his navigator worked the hand pump to-and-fro like a demon. Somehow the U/C locked down just as they were about to make the high-speed landing roll on the grass outfield.

 
Just as things started looking good, to their horror a group of ground crew, oblivious of this silent machine hurtling down towards them, started crossing the grass directly in their landing path, going across for their evening meal. They finally noticed and scattered, one on a bike crouching down on his handlebars cycling right between the wheels. Unbelievably no-one was hurt, and even more incredibly the aircraft finally rolled to a halt totally undamaged. Cue much laughing and joking (while holy shit knows how shaken and relieved they must have been). 

 

Engineers located and rectified the fault. They took the same aircraft up again for a full operational patrol the same night and it behaved perfectly. Like every crew, they would have been determined to get straight back up, to restore their nerve and confidence. Particularly so, because three crews, all close colleagues, had been killed in similar circumstances including their own squadron commander, who had perished attempting to demonstrate a single engine Mosquito landing the year before, getting the approach wrong. 
The incident was recalled in later accounts of the squadron’s history although, as was often the case in ‘no injury no damage’ incidents, kept off official records.

 

The Mosquito HK234 itself survived the war. It was to move on from Sqdn 307 to Sqdn 264 and then again to Operational Training Unit 51, to be finally taken out of service and scrapped in August 1945.
Putting the incident into perspective, there is a rather depressing video taken by a spectator at an air show in 1996 in which one of the last airworthy Mosquitoes stalled and fatally crashed. The inquiry concluded it was probably initiated from a temporary loss of power in the port engine. Google ‘Last Mosquito’ if you wish to watch it.

 

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Edited by Phil Perry
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I feel sure that little stories like this wil continue to surface until all those related or involved are long dead.. . 

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