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Jul 03 2011

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Anna Walker belly-lands Seafire in France

Seafire SX336. (Photo D. Miller (CC BY 2.0))

Pilot Anna Walker had to belly-land the Seafire SX336 at Bondues in France on July 2, at 5:30 PM local time. For an unknown reason, the gear did not extend. The aircraft landed on its belly and did a 180° turn before coming to rest. Fortunately, Anna Walker was not injured. It seems the aircraft suffered relatively light damage only.

Photos of the crash landing are available on Antoine Alacusos’ Flickr page. The photos show Anna Walker bringing the Spitfire in to a soft belly-landing. The prop shattered upon impact (probably saving the engine). Anna Walker is seen evacuating the aircraft on her own in the last pictures.

More information will be given as it becomes available.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.worldwarbirdnews.com/2011/07/03/anna-walker-belly-lands-seafire-in-france/

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  1. Lee War

    How do I sign up for World Warbird news?

    1. World Warbird News

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  2. Steve Baber

    This is such a shame, the only airworthy Mk XVII Seafire in the world too. I helped in the restoration of this plane in 1996-98.
    I’m just glad the pilot was ok

  3. RH

    Why didn’t she shut down the engine before touching down!?!

    1. World Warbird News

      Presumably to maximize authority over the aircraft and therefore minimize damage to the airframe. Even with the engine stopped, the props would have sustained a heavy impact, and the engine would have suffered consequently. As a result, it makes more sense to keep it on and try to land as softly as possible. The engine and props will be damaged in any case, so you might as well try to save what can be saved.

      I can’t guarantee that this is the reason she did it, nor can I guarantee this is how it should be done. It’s just my understanding of things, based on what I know and what I’ve heard from pilots who’ve had to do a dead-stick landing.

  4. Edgar Brooks

    Switch the engine off, and the propeller becomes a very efficient airbrake, slowing you down (possibly) too much, at just the time when you need all the control you can get. The last thing Anna would have wanted is a total stall, due to loss of airspeed, at that height.

  5. James

    Agree with Edgar, probably better to fly it in under control….The BBMF pilots told us (SAAF Museum) that at 1000’AGL. if the engine stops, you can draw a line from the spinner to the wing tip, and that’s where you’re going…The Spit becomes a very different animal with that huge prop widmilliming. Pulling the pitch to fully coarse, will help a great deal, but this will take a bit of time, as oil pressure could be low? Seems to me she dids a pretty good job…Would love to know what caused gear to fail? did the cable and chain fail at the gear lever? If you can rotate the uplocks, which normally works with U/c lever movement, the gear should cycle under gravity alone in most cases, with the system in idle? If the uplocks won’t rotate, you’ve had it. Maybe the Seafire is different to a MkIX?

  6. Tim Nicholson

    I think Anna did a magnicent job, and the damage appears to be comparatively easy to repair. However, I am interested to know whether there would likely to be any damage to the engine and its reduction gear and what checks would be required assuming there was nothing visible. Also, i am curious to know why the airscrew blades appeared to have snapped off rather than bent as what one might expect. Are they solid?

    1. James

      Yes Tim some interesting questions, SAAF Museum techo’s told me that in most Merlins that suffer an impact, cracking occurs in the front of the engine block where it angles up to form the rear part of the reduction gearbox, this is a stress concentration area, in an accident. The reduction gearbox and crank I would think, will have to be examined for shock stress. The carb intake took a beating, so the supercharger will maybe need to be cleaned out from ingested grass/dirt? The prop blades are surprisingly made of wood composite, as they have always been on the later Mks, hence the splintering of the blades. It was a good job, but I’m afraid I think there will be a lot of damage, will cost heaps to fix. A new prop must cost in the region of 100 000 Pounds??

  7. Tim Nicholson

    Thankyou very much indeed, James – your reply is very informative and I have learnt a lot from you. How sad that despite a wonderful piece of airmanship (airwomanship!) there is such a huge cost in money and time.

  8. martin

    Surely the Seafire’s engine is a Rolls Royce Griffon?

  9. James

    Yes Martin you’re quite right, not sure if the Griffon reduction gearbox/engine block housing is similar to the Merlin. I see now it wasn’t clear, my comment was of interest with regard to common Merlin accident damage as such, not about this particular aircraft. Has anyone heard what caused the gear to fail? Later aircraft had a blow down system I think, but as I said in my earlier post above, if the locks won’t rotate, that won’t help.

  1. Seafire SX336 leaves Bondues | World Warbird News

    […] Seafire SX336, which was damaged on July 2 in a wheels-up landing in Bondues, has been dismantled and loaded on a flatbed to return to its home base for repairs. Antoine […]

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