Mystery surrounds why replica WWII plane crashed near Peterborough

A question mark remains over the cause of an accident in which a replica US warplane plummeted 40ft back to earth after an abortive take-off attempt injuring the 72-year-old owner who was flying it and causing extensive damage to the plane.

Wednesday, 15th June 2016, 11:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2016, 11:57 am
The scale replica of the P51 Mustang

The horror incident happened on August 2 last year as Kevin Armstrong, of Roundhills View, Glatton, made his second attempt that day to become airborne after already abandoning one take off attempt from the private grass runway at Benwick in Cambridgeshire.

Luckily Mr Armstrong, who had 1,247 hours flying experience, and who had owned the 70 percent scale replica P51 Mustang – registration G CGOI – only suffered minor injuries in the crash.

An air crash report published this week has failed to identify a cause for what happened.

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The newly published Air Accident Investigation Branch report says that Mr Armstrong had already abandoned one take off attempt after the aircraft began to “yaw” during the take-off run. However, after returning to the runway threshold a second attempt to become airborne was made.

But the report says: “The pilot lost directional control of the aircraft shortly after commencing the take-off run.

“The aircraft left the side of the runway and became airborne for a short while before rolling to the left. The left wing tip struck the ground and the aircraft yawed left, coming to rest extensively damaged but in an upright attitude.”

It continues: “After the aircraft had travelled about 140 m on its take-off roll, the pilot realised it was drifting to the left so retarded the throttle to idle and commenced braking. As the aircraft slowed, he applied right rudder to correct the track but the aircraft failed to respond.

“It struck an earth bank at the left side of the runway and became airborne. It rolled to the left and the left wing struck the ground, causing the aircraft to rotate such that it came to rest in an upright attitude but facing north.

“In the accident sequence, the engine detached from the firewall and passed down the right side of the aircraft, coming to rest between the wing trailing edge and the horizontal tail-plane.”

A witness on the ground who had rushed to the scene of the crash with workers from a neighbouring farm had estimated that the plane was around 40 ft above ground when it “appeared to stall and roll, followed by the left wing striking the ground.”

An air ambulance was called to airlift Mr Armstrong, who remained conscious throughout to hospital.