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.

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    • Lee War on July 8, 2011 at 1:35 PM
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    • Steve Baber on July 8, 2011 at 10:04 PM
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    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

    • RH on July 9, 2011 at 10:37 PM
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    Why didn’t she shut down the engine before touching down!?!

    1. 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.

    • Edgar Brooks on July 10, 2011 at 9:24 PM
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    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.

    • James on July 18, 2011 at 5:00 AM
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    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?

    • Tim Nicholson on July 19, 2011 at 1:44 PM
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    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?

      • James on July 19, 2011 at 6:02 PM
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      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??

    • Tim Nicholson on July 20, 2011 at 10:50 PM
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    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.

    • martin on July 21, 2011 at 10:32 PM
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    Surely the Seafire’s engine is a Rolls Royce Griffon?

    • James on July 26, 2011 at 1:56 PM
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    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.

    • David L Siddle on January 7, 2019 at 12:40 PM
    • Reply

    I have 2 questions. The operations manual states that the locks holding the gear in the retracted condition may be stuck, and that they may be released by rolling inverted and taking the weight of the gear off the locks, then lowering the gear. Will the gear come down in an inverted position? Also, could damage have been minimized by landing in a nearby lake with the engine off?

    1. I would have thought the idea is to roll inverted to unstick the locks but to roll back to a normal position to retract the gear once the locks are unblocked. I could perfectly be wrong on this, as I am not familiar with the system, but it would seem to make more sense than extending the gear in an inverted position.

      As for ditching in a lake, I’m not sure that would effectively reduce damage to the airframe and it certainly would put the pilot at an even greater risk.

      Again, I’m no authority on the matter, but those are my thoughts and $0.02. 🙂

    • James on January 15, 2019 at 4:55 AM
    • Reply

    Difficult to describe but will give it a shot: The gear legs lock with large spring loaded pins, one located in each wheel well. The locking pins have an angled end. Crucially, they rotate with the U/C selector lever. On moving the U/C selector lever, the pins rotate so as to present the angled end of the locking pin to the moving U/C leg, the up lock hoops (visable on the ground) on the Spitfire oleo leg then push the pin back, the pin then snaps forward into the hoop, locking the leg up. On selecting U/C down, the locking pin is rotated, presenting the angled end of the locking pin to the leg, which as it moves down, pushes the pin back. Now the locking loop, cast into the top of the U/C leg, (not visable on the ground as it sits ontop of the leg, hidden in the wheel well), then pushes the pin back, the pin snaps back, locking the leg in the down position. If the pin is showing the angled end to the moving leg, like a door jam, it can push the pin back. If the pin cannot be rotated, the pin cannot be pushed back and the gear will remain locked up or down.
    pin rotation is by a connection to the U/C lever, with thin cables and bicycle type chains. Good idea to carefully check the chain condition up in the wheel wells, during a pre-flight! To my knowledge, if the pins can’t be rotated, rolling inverted won’t help. You are going to be doing a wheels up landing. Even the emergency blow down system, requires the pins to be rotated by selecting U/C down, before trying the emergency blow down system.

    1. Thanks for the detailed answer James ! Indeed, that’s not an easy process to describe…

  1. […] 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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