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9th of July 2017

A North American P-51D Mustang, built in 1944, was part of a formation of World War II-era aircraft approaching the end of their display during an airshow on this day in 2017. The aircraft had been airborne for approximately 25 minutes with no problems when the pilot switched the fuel selector from the left to the right-wing tank.

The aircraft in the cornfield (©AAIB)

As the formation flew a downwind leg in front of the airshow audience, the formation separated into three individual crosswind legs, while climbing to 1000 feet. When the pilot increased the engine power the engine stopped, without any warning or abnormal indication.

The engine restarted and ran at the commanded power setting for a few seconds before stopping for a second time. The pilot climbed away from the formation, transmitted a PAN call and prepared for a forced landing. The engine started and stopped several times, allowing a gradual descent. He reselected the left fuel tank and auto-leaned the mixture, at which point the engine ran for between 10 and 15 seconds before stopping again.

While flying a tight downwind at an altitude of ~500 feet and at a speed of 150 mph, the flaps were selected to 20º and the landing gear was selected down. While turning on the base leg it became apparent that there was not enough altitude to reach the runway. The pilot turned the aircraft towards a cornfield east of the local highway. The gear was retracted and flaps were selected to 30º at a speed of 120 mph. The aircraft made a successful belly landing, the pilot was uninjured.

The aircraft shortly after it came to a stop (Source; © Unknown)

The accident was investigated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), in there report the following conclusion is drawn;

"At the time of publication of this report, the aircraft was being returned to the overhaul facility in the USA for investigation and repair. The cause of the engine stopping was not known but based on the reported symptoms, the maintenance agency suspected it to be carburettor related. The pilot’s recognition of the need to make a forced landing and configuring the aircraft in time for the landing ensured a successful outcome."

The full report is available by clicking here.

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