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Aviation History Month Day 5 - 5th of November 2009

It was just after 15.30 local time on this day in aviation history when Grumman G-111 Albatros, registered N120FB, started its takeoff roll for what would be a very short flight at St. Lucie County International Airport in Florida. A 30 nm (54-kilometre) hop.

The aircraft after the belly landing

The flight was a short ferry flight to Okeechobee County Airport. After a normal flight preparation, the aircraft was lined up on runway 32

when the power levers were advanced to reach 30 inches of manifold pressure. With both engines operating and indicating normal the power levers were advanced further and with both engines indicating 40 inches of manifold pressure the brakes were released. The aircraft accelerated down the runway, reached V1 without any abnormalities and shortly after lifted off the runway. With a positive rate of climb established the Captain called for "Gear Up" Just after the gear lever was selected up a loud bang was heard from the left engine, followed by four smaller bangs. The Captain called for the "Engine Failure in Flight" Checklist, which was actioned by the Co-pilot, feathering the engine. The airspeed had stabilised around 95 knots and the remaining engine was pushed to 52 inches of manifold pressure to gain some airspeed.

The aircraft would still not accelerate and the crew confirmed that the aircraft was clean, ie. flap retracted and landing gear up. The aircraft started to slowly turn to the left, which the crew continued for an intended return to the airport. However, they were unable to maintain altitude and the captain decided to make an emergency landing on the airport perimeter road. This led to the aircraft hitting the airport perimeter fence and a sand berm before coming to a stop. The aircraft was shut down as per the emergency checklist and the crew exited the aircraft.

The aircraft after recovery from the crash site

An investigation into the accident was performed by the NTSB and they found that;

  • The aircraft was carrying 100LL aviation fuel, which was of good quality, with no water contamination

  • Both engines had about 3 flight hours since overhaul

  • Take off weight was ~27.100 lbs (~12292 kg) (MTOW 30.605 lbs - 13882 kg)

  • Engine control cables continuity could not be determined due to impact damage

  • An initial inspection of the engine and system components revealed no obvious signs of failure.

The report concluded that the probable cause was; A total loss of left engine power and subsequent failure of the airplane to maintain airspeed and altitude on the remaining engine for undetermined reasons.

N120FB in better days

Specifications for the Grumman G-111 Albatross;

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4-6

  • Capacity: 10 passengers

  • Length: 62 ft 10 in (19.15 m)

  • Wingspan: 96 ft 8 in (29.46 m)

  • Height: 25 ft 10 in (7.87 m)

  • Empty weight: 22,883 lb (10,380 kg)

  • Gross weight: 30,353 lb (13,768 kg)

  • Max takeoff weight: 37,500 lb (17,010 kg)

  • Fuel capacity: 675 US gal (562.1 imp gal; 2,555.2 l) internal fuel + 400 US gal (333.1 imp gal; 1,514.2 l) in wingtip floats + two 300 US gal (249.8 imp gal; 1,135.6 l) drop tanks

  • Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-1820-76A Cyclone 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 1,425 hp (1,063 kW) each for take-off. 1,275 hp (951 kW) normal rating from sea level to 3,000 ft (914 m)

  • Propellers: 3-bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed fully-feathering reversible-pitch propellers


  • Maximum speed: 236 mph (380 km/h, 205 kn)

  • Cruise speed: 124 mph (200 km/h, 108 kn)

  • Stall speed: 74 mph (119 km/h, 64 kn)

  • Range: 2,850 mi (4,590 km, 2,480 nmi)

  • Service ceiling: 21,500 ft (6,600 m)

  • Rate of climb: 1,450 ft/min (7.4 m/s)

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