World War II Replica Plane Crash Cause Still a Mystery

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On August 2nd of last year, Kevin Armstrong of Roundhills, Glatton, made his second attempt to take off in the 70 percent scale replica P51 Mustang warplane. He had abandoned the first attempt on the private grass runway at Benwick in Cambridgeshire.

After reaching a height of 40 feet, the plane suddenly plunged to the ground. Armstrong, who has 1,247 hours of flying experience, survived the accident with only minor injuries. A report released this week from the Air Accident Investigation Branch failed to find a cause for the crash.

Armstrong had abandoned the first takeoff attempt because the plane began to yaw on the take-off run. The second attempt saw the plane become airborne.

According to the report, “the pilot lost directional control of the aircraft shortly after commencing the take-off run. The aircraft left the side of the runway and became airborne for a short while before rolling to the left. The left wing tip struck the ground and the aircraft yawed left, coming to rest extensively damaged but in an upright attitude.”

The report continues: “After the aircraft had travelled about 140 m on its take-off roll, the pilot realised it was drifting to the left so retarded the throttle to idle and commenced braking. As the aircraft slowed, he applied right rudder to correct the track but the aircraft failed to respond. It struck an earth bank at the left side of the runway and became airborne. It rolled to the left and the left wing struck the ground, causing the aircraft to rotate such that it came to rest in an upright attitude but facing north. In the accident sequence, the engine detached from the firewall and passed down the right side of the aircraft, coming to rest between the wing trailing edge and the horizontal tail-plane.”

A witness claimed that the plane reached approximately 40 feet above the ground when it “appeared to stall and roll, followed by the left wing striking the ground.”

An air ambulance lifted Armstrong to the hospital.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE