P-38 Crashes at Air Show

Video 62 added on 2006-08-17:
Video Type: Crash
Aircraft: P-38
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Video Rating: 9.67
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The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the pilot and armament. The aircraft was used in a number of different roles, including dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing, photo reconnaissance missions,and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with droppable fuel tanks under its wings. The P-38 was used most extensively and successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, where it was flown by the American pilots with the highest number of aerial victories to this date. America's top ace Richard Bong earned 40 victories (in a Lightning he called Marge), and Thomas McGuire (in Pudgy) scored 38. In the South West Pacific theater, it was a primary fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in active production throughout the duration of American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day.

The aircraft was performing at the 'Flying Legends' Air Displayat Duxford, which was being staged over the two days of the weekend of 13/14 July 1996. The display on 13 July was completed without incident. On 14 July, the aircraft had taken off at 1435 hrs as the lead aircraft in a formation comprising one Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk and one Bell P-63 King Cobra fighter aircraft. The display's lot' commenced at 1439 hrs and after several formation passes in front of the assembly of spectators, the trio split up in order to enable each aircraft to carry out a solo display.

The P-38 was the final aircraft to perform its solo routine and was due to clear the display area by 1455 hrs. The aircraft commencedits run in from the east of the airfield, in a shallow dive togain speed, then carried out a loop. This manoeuvre was followedby a 'Cuban Eight' manoeuvre, which involved two short periodsof flight under negative 'g'. As the aircraft returned to normalpositive 'g' flight
after each of these periods, a slight trailof light coloured vapour was noted coming from under the main body of the aircraft (post-accident consideration of the aircraftsystems concluded that this was most likely to have been vapourescaping from the fuel tank vent lines).

At the end of the 'Cuban Eight', the aircraft was passing fromeast to west (crowd left to right). It pulled up and to the leftinitially, levelled the wings, then performed a 270 rollto the left. The
aircraft then came back to pass acrossthe front of the crowd from west to east. With the aircraft appearing to be at a normal entry height and speed, an aileron roll to the left was commenced as the aircraftcrossed the western threshold of the hard surfaced Runway 06. The first 360 roll was completed apparently normally butthe aircraft continued, without pause, into a second full roll. While the aircraft was inverted in this second roll, the nosepitched towards the
ground and the aircraft began to lose heightwhile the roll continued. By the time the aircraft became upright again, it had descended to a very low height above the runway. The aircraft continued to roll left and struck the runway withits left wing, with some 30 of left bank applied, about two thirds of the way along Runway 06. The left outer wing ruptured and collapsed, followed by an impactof the left engine. At this time, a large fireball erupted as the aircraft began to cartwheel across the airfield, breakingup into multiple fragments as its trajectory took it diagonallyaway from the main spectator area towards a row of parked lightaircraft on the south side of the airfield. Several of these aircraft were destroyed or severely damaged in the wreckage's path

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