Posts about aircraft maintenance and handling
As I'm sure you've heard by now, the NTSB recently published its final report on last year's crash of Galloping Ghost, the highly modified P-51 flown by veteran racer Jimmy Leeward, which killed 11 people and injured more than 60. The report confirmed what many had suspected: the crash was precipitated by the flutter-induced failure of a trim-tab actuating mechanism. This caused the airplane to roll and pitch up uncontrollably, subjecting the pilot to approximately 17 G of acceleration and damaging the aircraft structure. At that point, with the pilot incapacitated and the aircraft out of control, the resulting crash was a foregone conclusion. The report's statement of probable cause includes the following:
"A mechanical voice says, 'Fasten seat belts.' The Sky Pony turns onto the runway and Myrtle is pressed back into her seat as the airplane surges forward. A few seconds later, she's off the ground and climbing steeply on her way to Lincoln."
It was a very dark, moonless night at Paso Robles, California when my wife Janet, our friend Lena, and I finished a lovely dinner and were boarding the airplane for our flight home. Paso Robles is in a valley, surrounded by high terrain, and there would be very few signs of human habitation along most of our route back to the San Francisco bay area. Anticipating this, I had filed an IFR flight plan and prepared to fly the published obstacle departure procedure to give us an extra margin of safety.
"Are we on the ground?" I asked my instructor Bill as we careened down the runway. I really couldn't tell, and it certainly wasn't because I greased the landing!
"Yes," he replied.