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Thread: Lancaster flying on three engines?

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    Default Lancaster flying on three engines?

    I have read that the Packard engines on Lancaster MkIIIs had a tendency to overheat

    Lancaster ED823 (a MkIII) crashed shortly after take-off, the accident caused by a fire after one of the engines overheated on take-off. The plane came down about 8 miles from the runway

    I understood that Lancaster pilots were trained to fly (and land) on three engines Ė why would the failure of one engine cause the plane to crash?

    Didnít they have built in fire extinguishers?

    Any comments and suggestions gratefully received!

    Andrew

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    Andrew,
    Using AP2062-PN as a reference, Pilots' and Flight Engineer's Notes (May 1944 edition), I can confirm that Lancaster I, III, and X (last was Canadian-built version) were all fitted as standard with fire extinguishers on all engines (para 64, operated by push-buttons on pilot's instrument panel), that all pilots of multi-engine aircraft would have practiced flying twin and 4-engined aircraft with one or even two engines out in case of latter fairly regularly throughout their flying careers, and I have never heard that Packard-built Merlins were any more prone to overheating than Rolls-built Merlins. In certain facets, Packard-built engines were more advanced than Rolls engines, and RR adopted some of the Packard improvements in their own engines. See "The Merlin in Perspective - the Combat Years" by Alec Harvey-Bailey, Rolls Royce Heritage Trust, Histotical Series No. 2, 1983.
    Should this quick summing up give the impression that an engine failure on such an aircraft shortly after take off gives the impresssion that such a situation was purely routine and that there was really nothing to worry about, then nothing could be further from the truth! If this was at night, the aircraft was still at very low altitide (which sounds as though was the case) and was near or at maximum take off weight, then there was plenty to worry about. Engine failure in a multi-engine aircraft (and even for a single) on take off is never a doddle, and usually puts the captain into a zone of maximum mental concentration, and all he has to fall back on is his experience and the drills he has learned by repetition. In WW2 there were no nice realistic simulators like today, and ask any commercial pilot how he enjoys his 6-monthly routine checks on his ability in engine failure on take off (usually at the worst possible time for the type he is "flying"). The worst possible time for engine failure to occur on any aircraft on take off is that period after lift off and prior to attaining the magic figure still usually called "safety speed", that is the speed at which it is possible to keep the aircraft under control and flying, and preferably still climbing. If you have not attained that speed, then you are more or less "doomed" to attempt a straight-ahead forced landing. As you can imagine, on a dark night, with probably small fields, rows of high trees, small villages, dykes or any other such obstructions dead ahead and only your landing lights avaiable for illumination (probably not switched on due to prevailing practice) and really no great ability to alter your forward progress to either side to any meaningful degree and no ability to bank at all for obvious reasons) then you can appreciate that this situation is enough to concentrate the minds of everybody on board such an aircraft in this predicament!
    According to the reference quoted above, recommended take-off speed for these models of Lancaster, if loaded to 50,000 pound, was 95 (90) mph IAS, the indicated speed at which the a/c (by now with tail up) should be eased off the ground, or 105 (100) mph IAS if loaded to 60,000 pounds. Saftey speed is noted as being 130 (125) mph IAS, presume at either weight, or anything in between. The two IAS figures quoted here are for aircraft fitted with the pilot's ASI conneccted to the static vent (first figure) or to a/c without this connection (figure in brackets). So you can see that there must be a period of quite a few seconds before the safety speed is attained.
    Hope this gives some idea of what might happen during these dangerous conditions which were an inherent part of every take off in Bomber Command in WW2, and to this must be added the additional stress of suddenly having and engine fire in on one wing. One can imagine that as long as the engine on fire was still delivering apparent full power the pilot would be sorely tempted to leave it alone while it was still delivering that power until he was well above safety speed so that he could then go through feathering and engine close down as well as activating the extringuisher, hopefully all directed at the correct engine!
    David D

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    Many thanks for that!

    Really helps to put together a picture of what happened to ED823 when it crashed in our village, Halam on 10th April 1943

    We are saying special prayers tomorrow for the seven airmen who died in the crash

    Andrew

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    It is worth noting that the hydraulics, pneumatics and electrics relied on pumps/generators driven by the engines. The hydraulics and electrics were both driven from the inboard engines and the pneumatic system had a Heywood compressor on the starboard inner. Loss of an engine means or could mean loss of power to replenish the services being supplied from the dead engine.

    The ability to retain control in the event of an engine failure relies on many components (in this case I mean factors not bits of equipment). The aircraft will yaw in the direction of the dead engine and to a degree influenced by whether its an inboard or outboard engine that's failed - assume four engines here. Turns when under asymmetric power should generally be made in the direction of the live engines, as otherwise the live engines tend to push the aircraft further over in the turn.

    Rudder and aileron authority are important factors in handling a failed engine, since rudders and aileron can help compensate for the tendency to push the aircraft towards the 'dead side'.

    David has already described other aspects in his post above and I am also looking at the same AP.

    At certain times one can 'equalise' the power by throttling back the live engines but it takes a very clear headed and brave (or foolhardy) man to do that below safety speed in the hope of being able to retain flying speed and directional control.

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    According to Chorley's Bomber Command Losses, ED823 crashed after flying into High Tension Cables. There is no mention of an engine fire. The crew were on a night training exercise whilst with 1661 HCU and took off from Winthorpe before crashing at approx. 0125 on 10th April 1943.
    Bill.

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    I believe that the information regarding "a potential fire" has come from the following link, which casts some doubt on official report findings.

    http://www.halam.org.uk/frame_ED823(2).htm
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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