and the Take Off Crash
The 1996 season began with the
Longhorsley show, although only one flight was made. There was a strong
wind blowing down the site, forcing the take off to be up hill with the
climb out fighting the rising ground and a severe down draught from the
wind rolling over the trees. It was a struggle gaining height, partly
aggrivated by the matt olive drab paint causing additional drag.
Just before landing, I noticed one landing gear leg wasn't hanging correctly, and it turned out that the drag link pivot had vibrated out, allowing the main leg to fold backwards upon landing. I was able to keep the weight off the wheel until the speed dropped and there was no further damage.
At the Cosford show, I only managed half a circuit before having to belly land the B-17 down wind. The problems were caused by the electric retracts, though this wasn't discovered at the time as post incident range checks were all ok.
I didn't fly at Duxford due to
a severe vibration problem in the number 4 nacelle. This was strengthened
Left - The B-17 with two escort P-47's, both from the USAAF Team, one mine, the other belonging to John Deacon.
The Crash at Elvington
to problems earlier in the season the B-17 was given a good check over
with range checks made engines running and off, and with the gear cycling.
Everything seemed ok, but a number of events conspired to bring the B-17
To start with, the matt paint finish was seriously affecting the length of the take off run and a cross wind from the left, didn't help to gain airspeed. This also required the first ninety degree turn away from the runway to be down wind. It took a long ground roll to become airborne, with one outer engine throttled back to enable the B-17 to track straight on the ground. Once airborne, the climb was slow, and I kept the aircraft straight for a while, building up speed and height before having to turn down wind. The landing gear was retracting by this point.
As the aircraft completed ninety degrees of the turn, two of the three receiver aerials, which ran across the wings, ended up pointing towards the transmitter, giving the weakest signal. This, combined with the low altitude and the electrical noise from the landing gear motors, was enough to cause the pilot's and co-pilot's receivers to go failsafe, and shut the throttles, causing the aircraft to dive into the ground, right wing low and about 60sixty degrees nose down.
three frames from a video of the crash show the final dive, impact and
shower of wreckage.
the flight line, it looked pretty terminal, but B-17's are tough aircraft
and so was the model. Being a B-17G, it actually took it on the chin!
While the crash picture below look bad, the aircraft had actually come
apart at all of its transport joints, causing little structural damage to
the main airframe components.
outer wing panels, rear fuselage and tail were all undamaged. The inner
wing panels also survived. The only damage to them was the leading edge
ahead of the main spar and the engine nacelles. The front fuselage had
taken the main impact force, but the top decking and main fuselage formers
survived to be reused. It turned out that only about 10~15% new material
was needed in the rebuild. The rebuild however, was spread out over three
years due to also having to rebuild my P-47 which crashed while a friend
was flying it. That crash wasn't his fault, but actually a fracture in the
elevator signal wire inside the insulation of the wire.