paved Medford Airport
Tower at the Medford Airport looking East
April 6, 2013
A P-51 that lost control on takeoff. Note the separated engine in a field.
photo by Kenn Knackstedt
Permanent link to this article: http://skybilly.com/airplane-crash-engine-field/
Essentially, the story goes like this (either Bill Warren or Gary Austin, and/or both, was/were there and relayed it to me): the guy flying that P-51 had just purchased it down in California and was ferrying it to his home in Idaho when he stopped at Medford for fuel. When he was taxiing out for takeoff, the control tower operator (probably George Milligan was in the tower that day, and he was ALWAYS up for soe fun to break the monotony!) asked him for a “high-performance takeoff.”
Well, being a showoff, BUT, unfamiliar with the EXTREME torque (called “P-Factor”) of that big Merlin V-12 engine, he IMMEDIATELY shoved the throttle forward wide-open (it is SUPPOSED to be S-L-O-W-L-Y given power until speed builds up), and he did NOT have enough forward speed and relative-wind over the rudder (nor enough right-rudder pedal, LOL) to hold it straight down the runway, and he lost control of it out in the weeds, at which point, the landing gear collapsed, causing the propeller to completely BREAK OFF at the crankshaft!
At that point, the guys I talked-to who watched the whole spectacle of miserably-incompetent pilot-technique said the engine must’ve revved-up to what sounded like 12,000 RPM(!) when the load of the propeller departed the engine and airframe and went freely-cartwheeling through the foxtails and star-thistles!
The pilot DID have the presence-of-mind, however, to pull the power back to idle on the quadrant (albeit, a FAST idle, due to no propeller loading, anymore, hah hah), and just sat there in the cockpit stunned with the engine still running, until the witnesses ran up to the airplane and climbed up on the wing to see if he were all right.
At that point, they said, the pilot had somewhat recovered his cavalier “look good” attitude and pseudo-military-bearing, and slid the canopy back (with the engine still at a very high idle, however), wryly commenting: “Well, I guess I’ll be late for supper tonight . . . ” and finally shut down the poor internally-hemorrhaging Merlin . . .
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