Event Details

Title:Crash at airshow, Lockheed P-38J Lightning, N3145X
Micro summary:This Lockheed P-38J Lightning rolled and crashed while executing a maneuver at an airshow.
Event Time:1996-07-14 at 1451 UTC
File Name:1996-07-14-UK.pdf
Publishing Agency:Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB)
Publishing Country:United Kingdom
Report number:EW/C96/7/4
Site of event:Duxford Airfield, Cambridgeshire
Departure:Duxford Airport, Duxford, England
Destination:Duxford Airport, Duxford, England
Airplane Type(s):Lockheed P-38J Lightning
Flight Phase:Cruise
Type of flight:Revenue
Serious Injuries:0
Other Injuries:0
Executive Summary:The aircraft was performing at the 'Flying Legends' Air Display at 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 'slot' 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 commenced its run in from the east of the airfield, in a shallow dive to gain speed, then carried out a loop. This manoeuvre was followed by a 'Cuban Eight' manoeuvre, which involved two short periods of flight under negative 'g'. As the aircraft returned to normal positive 'g' flight after each of these periods, a slight trail of light coloured vapour was noted coming from under the main body of the aircraft (post-accident consideration of the aircraft systems concluded that this was most likely to have been vapour escaping from the fuel tank vent lines).

At the end of the 'Cuban Eight', the aircraft was passing from east to west (crowd left to right). It pulled up and to the left initially, levelled the wings, then performed a 270° roll to the left. The aircraft then came back to pass across the 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 aircraft crossed the western threshold of the hard surfaced Runway 06. The first 360° roll was completed apparently normally but the aircraft continued, without pause, into a second full roll. While the aircraft was inverted in this second roll, the nose pitched towards the ground and the aircraft began to lose height while 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 with its 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 impact of the left engine. At this time, a large fireball erupted as the aircraft began to cartwheel across the airfield, breaking up into multiple fragments as its trajectory took it diagonally away from the main spectator area towards a row of parked light aircraft on the south side of the airfield. Several of these aircraft were destroyed or severely damaged in the wreckage's path. One of the engines bounced further than the rest of the wreckage, crossing the airfield boundary and then the M11 Motorway which runs almost perpendicular to the end of the runway. A passing freight truck sustained some minor damage from pieces of wreckage but was able to continue travelling northwards along the motorway. The engine came to rest in a field just to the east side of the motorway, close to where several members of the public had been standing in order to watch the flying activities from outside the airfield boundary.

The airfield Fire and Rescue services were quickly at the scene and brought the numerous areas of fire under control in a short time. The pilot was found in the seat, with his four point harness still fastened, amongst the wreckage of the main fuselage pod. A post-mortem examination found that the pilot had been killed by a severe head injury. No physical condition was found which could have caused any incapacitation of the pilot and no traces of drugs nor alcohol were found to be present. It was assessed that the destruction of the cockpit was such that survival was impossible.

The pilots and passengers of the visiting light aircraft had been required, by the airport operator, to move to the spectator side of the runway in order to watch the air display. Fortunately, there were no injuries to any spectators.

The display routine followed by the P-38 formation was identical to that flown at the display on the day prior to the accident. The significant difference was that during the Saturday display, only a single 360° aileron roll had been carried out, but at the time of the accident two consecutive 360° rolls had occurred, with a continuation past the wings level at the end of the second roll.

Soon after the accident, the air display organisers made an announcement over the public address system for any spectators who had photographed, or taken video footage of, the final manoeuvre to hand in their films/tapes on loan for the purposes of this investigation. An excellent response was forthcoming, which resulted in AAIB having access to some 60 video tapes and 40 sets of photographs of the event.

The weather at the time was a surface wind from 270° at 6kt, variable in direction between 240° and 300°, visibility in excess of 10 km, scattered cloud base 3,000 feet, QNH 1026mb.

Photographs and video coverage of the aircraft's manoeuvres were analysed with a view to assessing not only the pre-impact flightpath characteristics but also the pre-impact aircraft integrity and the operation of aircraft systems. A full flight path analysis was carried out using several video sequences which had been filmed from a variety of viewpoints.

A recording was available of the Saturday display, where one aileron roll to the left was performed. The time taken to complete the roll on this occasion was 3.4 seconds and it was noted that the aircraft had an upward trajectory throughout this manoeuvre.

The analysis of the accident coverage showed that the aircraft had performed two continuous aileron rolls, taking 4.4 seconds and 3.6 seconds respectively to complete. This had been started at a height of about 250 feet above the runway, at a speed of about 250 knots and with an initial nose-up pitch attitude. The roll, to the left, was initiated by a rapid roll control input to produce a considerable aileron deflection. This aileron deflection remained more or less constant until the aircraft had completed about 675° of roll. At that point, the ailerons were returned to the neutral position where they remained until the aircraft struck the ground.

During the first roll the aircraft climbed to an apogee of about 360 feet when inverted, descending to about 260 feet by the time it was erect again. At this point the aircraft pitch attitude was approximately horizontal or very slightly nose-down. There was no pause before the second roll was executed. During this roll, the nose dropped progressively and an increasing rate of descent built up. At the inverted position the aileron position was observed to be being maintained in the almost fully (left roll) deflected position and a considerable elevator displacement in the 'stick back' sense was made. Considerable left rudder control was also added at this time and the roll rate increased. About 45° of roll before the aircraft became erect, the rudder and aileron inputs were moved to neutral, but were not applied in opposition to the roll. The rate of roll was seen to increase slightly as the aircraft rolled through wings level (from about 110°/sec to 125°/sec), with a rate of descent of about 7,200 feet per minute, to the point of impact. Ground speed at impact was assessed as 230 kt. The final angle of descent was 14.5°, giving a speed along the flight path of 238 kt.

Impact was seen to occur on the left wing tip at an attitude of about 30° left roll with the fuselage level in pitch. The aileron and rudder positions were approximately neutral and the elevator was deflected up.

An analysis of the propeller speeds from video showed that they remained constant throughout the rolling manoeuvre. Both propellers were turning at about 1,300 RPM, the right slightly faster than the left. With the engine propeller reduction gearing ratio of 2:1, this accorded with the aircraft operating limitations which quoted the engine limits for use in aerobatic manoeuvres as 2,600 RPM/40 inches manifold pressure.

It was also noted on the video coverage that the coolant radiator exit flaps were not symmetric for each engine. Those for the left engine were noted to be fully open, while those for the right engine were in trail, for a large part of the final display sequence. Correct engine operation during the manoeuvres was assessed by other means and any possible effect of the asymmetry on the handling of the aircraft was not considered to be significant.
Learning Keywords:Operations - Uncontrolled Flight into Terrain
Consequence - Hull Loss
Close match:Flat spin, Accident occurredon 25 June 1997 to Aircraft SUKHOI 26M, registration RA01295, in Barberá del Valles (Barcelona)
Stall on takeoff, Birgenair, Boeing 757, TC-GEN
Final report of the accident investigation, Flash Airlines Fight 604, Boeing 737-300 SU-ZCF, Red Sea off Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, January 3, 2004
Loss of altitude and crash following takeoff, Final Report by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau concerning the accident to the aircraft Cessna CE 560 Citation V, HB-VLV operated by Eagle Air Ltd. Aircharter + Taxi on 20 December 2001 at Zurich-K
Flight into terrain, Final Report of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau on the accident to the Saab 340B aircraft, registration HB-AKK of Crossair flight CRX 498 on 10 January 2000 near Nassenwil/ZH
Descent from cruise and crash into river, Aircraft Accident Report, Silkair Flight MI 185, Boeing B737-300, 9V-TRF, Musi River, Palembang, Indonesia, 19 December 1997
Crash after takeoff, Report of the Public Inquiry into the causes and circumstances of the accident near Staines on 18 June 1972
Uncommanded pitch-up, Fokker F27-600 Friendship, G-CHNL
Crash after takeoff, Boeing 747-2B5F, HL-7451
Loss of Control and Impact With Terrain, Aviation Charter, Inc., Raytheon (Beechcraft) King Air A100, N41BE, Eveleth, Minnesota, October 25, 2002
Crash into terrain, Eurocopter AS350-B2, N169PA, Meadview, Arizona, August 10, 2001
In-Flight Electrical System Failure and Loss of Control, Jet Express Services, Raytheon (Beechcraft) Super King Air 200, N81PF, Near Strasburg, Colorado, January 27, 2001
Uncontrolled flight into terrain, Cessna 335, N8345N, Hillsboro, Missouri, October 16, 2000
Stall on takeoff, Bombardier CL-600-2B16 (CL-604), C-FTBZ , Mid-Continent Airport, Wichita, Kansas, October 10, 2000
Loss of Pitch Control on Takeoff, Emery Worldwide Airlines, Flight 17, McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71F, N8079U, Rancho Cordova, California, February 16, 2000
Loss of Control and Impact with Pacific Ocean, Alaska, Airlines Flight 261, McDonnell Douglas MD-83, N963AS, About 2.7 Miles North of Anacapa Island, California, January 31, 2000
In-flight upset, EgyptAir Flight 990, Boeing 767-366ER, SU-GAP, 60 Miles South of Nantucket, Massachusetts, October 31, 1999
Pressurization failure, Sunjet Aviation, Learjet Model 35, N47BA, Aberdeen, South Dakota, October 25, 1999
In-flight breakup, Schempp-Hirth Nimbus-4DM, N807BB, Minden, Nevada, July 13, 1999
Uncontrolled Impact With Terrain, Fine Airlines Flight 101, Douglas DC-8-61, N27UA, Miami, Florida, August 7, 1997
In-Flight Icing Encounter And Uncontrolled Collision With Terrain, Comair Flight 3272, Embraer EMB-120RT, N265CA, Monroe, Michigan January 9, 1997
Uncontrolled Flight Into Terrain , Abx Air (Airborne Express), Douglas DC-8-63, N827AX, Narrows, Virginia, December 22, 1996
In-Flight Fire And Impact with Terrain, Valujet Airlines Flight 592, DC-9-32, N904VJ, Everglades, Near Miami, Florida, May 11, 1996
Uncontrolled Collision with Terrain, Air Transport International, Douglas DC-8-63, N782AL, Kansas City International Airport, Kansas City, Missouri, February 16, 1995
Uncontrolled Descent and Collision With Terrain, United Airlines Flight 585, Boeing 737-200, N999UA, 4 Miles South of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, Colorado, Springs, Colorado, March 3, 1991
Crash on takeoff, Northwest Airlines, Inc., McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82, N312RC, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Romulus, Michigan, August 16, 1987
In-flight upset, United Airlines Flight 585, Boeing 737-291, N999UA, Uncontrolled Collision with Terrain for Undetermined Reasons, 4 Miles South Of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 3, 1991
Electrical failure and crash into ocean, United Air Lines, Inc., Boeing 727-22C, N7434U, near Los Angeles, California, January 18, 1969
Flaps-up takeoff, Pan American World Airways, Inc., Boeing 707-321C, N799PA, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska, December 26, 1968
Loss of roll control, Ozark Air Lines, Inc., Douglas DC-9-15, N974Z, Sioux City Airport, Sioux City, Iowa, December 27, 1968
Loss of directional control, Western Air Lines, Inc., Boeing 720-047B, N3166, Ontario International Airport, Ontario, California, March 31, 1971
Loss of control on takeoff, United Airlines Flight 2885, N8053U, McDonnell Douglas DC-8-54F, Detroit, Michigan, January 11, 1983
Uncontained engine failure, Midwest Express Airlines, Inc., DC-9-14, N100ME, General Billy Mitchell Field, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 6, 1985
Crash after takeoff due to icing, Continental Airlines, Inc., Flight 1713, McDonnell Douglas DC-9-14, N626TX, Stapleton International Airport, Denver, Colorado, November 15, 1987
Crash on takeoff, Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd., McDonnell-Douglas DC-8-62F, JA 8054, Anchorage, Alaska, January 13, 1977
Loss of engine and stall on takeoff, American Airlines, Inc., DC-10-10, N110AA, Chicago-O'hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, May 25, 1979
Stall on takeoff, Air Florida, Inc., Boeing 737-222, N62AF, Collision With 14th Street Bridge, Near Washington National Airport, Washington, D.C., January 13, 1982
Loss of control, Delta Air Lines, Inc., McDonnell Douglas DC-9-14, N3305L, Greater Southwest International Airport, Fort Worth, Texas, May 30, 1972
Smoke emergency, Pan American World Airways, Inc., Boeing 707-321C, N458PA, Boston, Massachusetts, November 3, 1973
Uncontrolled Descent and Collision with Terrain, USAir Flight 427, Boeing 737-300, N513AU, Near Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, September 8, 1994
In-Flight Icing Encounter and Loss of Control, Simmons Airlines, d.b.a. American Eagle Flight 4184, Avions de Transport Regional (ATR) Model 72-212, N401AM, Roselawn, Indiana, October 31, 1994
In-Flight Icing Encounter and Loss of Control, Simmons Airlines, d.b.a. American Eagle Flight 4184, Avions de Transport Regional (ATR) Model 72-212, N401AM, Roselawn, Indiana, October 31, 1994, PART II
Loss of control on takeoff, Ryan International Airlines DC-9-15, N565PC, Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, Cleveland, Ohio, February 17, 1991
In-Flight Structural Breakup, Britt Airways, Inc. dba Continental Express Flight 2574, EMB-120RT, N33701, Eagle Lake, Texas, September 11, 1991
Loss of control and crash, Air Transport International, Inc. Flight 805, Douglas DC-8-63, N794AL, Swanton, Ohio, February 15, 1992
Takeoff stall in icing conditions, USAir Flight 405, Fokker F-28, N485US, LaGuardia Airport, Flushing, New York, March 22, 1992
Uncontrolled Collision with Terrain, American International Airways Flight 808, Douglas DC-8-61, N814CK, US Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, August 18, 1993
Stall and loss of control on final approach, Atlantic Coast Airlines Inc dba United Express Flight 6291, Jetstream 4101, N304UE, Columbus, Ohio, January 7, 1994
Uncontrolled collision with terrain, Flagship Airlines, Inc., dba American Eagle Flight 3379, BAe Jetstream 3201, N918AE, Morrisville, North Carolina, December 13, 1994
Uncontrolled flight into terrain for undetermined reasons, Learjet 24B, N600XJ, Helendale, California, December 23, 2003
Crash during takeoff in icing conditions, Canadair, Ltd., CL-600-2A12, N873G, Montrose, colorado, November 28, 2004
In-Flight Fire Leading to Collision with Water, Swissair Transport Limited, McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWF Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia 5 nm SW, 2 September 1998


Accident Reports on DVD, Copyright © 2006 by Flight Simulation Systems, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.
 All referenced trademarks are the property of their respective owners.