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1 January 1945, Blog #580

On this New Years' day 2023 V2 Aviation - Training & Maintenance takes a look at a belly landing of a P-38 Lightning. But not before taking the time to wish all the readers of this blog a fantastic, healthy and prosperous 2023!

 

A Lockheed P-38G-10-Lightning took off for a training mission on this day in 1945 from Alexai Point Airfield (Attu Island, Alaska, USA, currently known as US Coast Guard Station CASCO Cove. Attu Island is part of the Aleutian Island chain and is located ~1300 nm / 2400 km South-East of Anchorage Airport, It is the westernmost point of the state of Alaska)

The aircraft wreckage prior to recovery (source & © PacificWrecks.org)

The aircraft was the element leader of a formation of four P-38s on this low-level training flight. During the mission, the aircraft flew too low across Attu Island, in an attempt to gain altitude the aircraft the pilot overcorrected, causing the aircraft to "mush" into snow-covered ground. (Mush an aircraft means that, while the airspeed indicator reads low, the speed of the airflow over the tail is much higher, creating a much stronger aerodynamic force the pilot can use to pitch or yaw the aircraft. During power-on conditions, the prop wash ensures the tail is flying effectively even though the wing is wallowing at a slow airspeed and high angle of attack) The impact with the snow caused the starboard engine to be torn off from its mounting while the propellor of the left engine was also torn off. As the engine subsequently made a smooth touchdown in the snow it skidded over a rise, coming to a stop close to the edge of Temneck Bay. Afraid that the aircraft might catch fire or explode the pilot quickly evacuate the aircraft and ran away from the aircraft. Once at a safe distance from the wreckage, he stopped running and continued to walk to the coast and waited for a rescue boat which was alerted by one of the aircraft in the formation. He was picked up and returned to duty.

The aircraft wreckage prior to recovery (source & © PacificWrecks.org)


In 1979 the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum nominated the aircraft to be taken up into the US National Register of Historic Places. In 1988 the American Veterans Memorial Museum is reported to have registered the aircraft with the FAA, however, the aircraft was not returned to flying condition and remained at Attu Island.

The wreckage remained at the crash site until June 1999, when it was recovered in surprisingly good condition. The parts of the aircraft that were torn off during the crash were found near the main wreckage. An inspection of the aircraft revealed that the cockpit instruments were found to have been removed from the aircraft. While the vertical stabilisers were found to be riddled with bullet holes, apparently being used for target practice.

The aircraft was transported to Elmendorf Air Force Base (Anchorage, AK, USA) onboard a Lockheed C-130, and was (re)registered as N55929. Volunteers from the "Project Lightning Save" began the restoration of the aircraft to a display (non-flying) condition in December 1999. This restoration project was completed in record time in August 2000, after which it was installed One of the bullet-riddled vertical stabilisers on a pedestal at McCloud Memorial (source & © PacificWrecks.org) park at Elmendorf AFB, where it still resides.

The aircraft at McCloud Memorial park at Elmendorf AFB © Malcom Nason)


** Editorial note **


V2 Aviation - Training & Maintenance has not been able to obtain an investigation report on this accident. This blog is therefore based on several internet sources (an article on the pacificwrecks.com website and the links provided in this article). Should there be an inconsistency in the blog don't hesitate to get in touch with us. There are two possibilities to do that, via the comments function at the bottom of this page or via the contact page of the website.

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