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Thread: Halifax engine defects in 1945?

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    Default Halifax engine defects in 1945?

    Hi All,

    In corresponding with Mark Hood, I learned there were still issues with Halifaxes later in the war (which might further explain Harris' long-standing disdain for the type) and I wondered if anyone can shed some more light on problems with the Hercules engines, specifically, the model XVI?

    In the crash of LW139, 429 Sqn at RAF Leeming, on Feb. 23, 1945, the port outer failed due to "sleeve seizure" and, while the pilot was attempting a landing, the port inner failed, apparently due to lack of fuel, although this couldn't be confirmed. The pilot ordered the FE to apply more power to the two starboard engines and tried to turn to port, after which the ac stalled and crashed from about 40 feet.

    The inquiry concluded that boosting the starboard engines and turning to port made it a case of pilot error, however Mark isn't entirely convinced and speculated that the conclusion might have been something of a cover up for an ongoing problem with the engines. The inquiry, which was a one-person job with testimony from the only survivor (the FE) and officers on the ground, did not result in an AIB investigation.

    Weather, which was described as "exceedingly good" was not a factor and the pilot had a fair amount of experience, having signed up in 1940 and previously receiving a recommendation for a commendation for his airmanship.

    Any thoughts?
    David

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    One other point about this incident that I was wondering about... it was a training flight. But on the same day, 429 Sqn was flying ops to Germany. The pilot, Peter F. Robb, had been flying ops with 429 since December, so why would they have been on a training flight at this time?
    David

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    Training flights will have been carried out throughout a crew's tour, though tapering off as time went by unless some new piece of kit required it. I don't see there's anything unusual about that, nor in the timing. Not every aircraft and crew flew every mission, and other work had to continue. Nor is there anything unusual about engine failures, though it would be interesting to find out if there was some kind of long-running problem. I would expect there would be more evidence available for such, in the way of increased losses. I really don't see the point of cover-ups if such a thing was true, as it would be in everyone's interest to solve any problems.

    I had presumed that the thread was going to be about Coastal Command's pressure to get rid of the (then) problematic Merlin XX in favour of the Merlin 22, but by this time there must have been few of the former remaining. The Merlin XX was a highly successful engine in many types, yet was causing problems. Was this because of a prevalence of older rebuilds as production will presumably have finished some time before?

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    Turning to port with the port engines failed is the classic way to cause a stall/spin accident. "Turning in to the dead engines" would have been rightly considered as pilot error, unless there were other circumstances that made the turn to port absolutely unavoidable.

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    I have a few accident reports, three for sure, dealing with fatal crashes, it seems some engine failures were caused by the cylinder studs breaking off, causing the cylinder to come off, causing a fire. In two cases, the wing burned off with fatal results. It is possible that this sleeve failure may have caused the cylinder to break off. MZ-920, NP-681 and LW-598 all crashed due to a cylinder blowing off. I'm sure there are others in 4 Group.

    Richard

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    The other puzzling part of this is that the pilot was experienced, having signed up in 1940, so he was in his fifth year of flying and had been flying ops for many months at the time. He had also received a recommendation for a commendation for airmanship in 1943 for landing a damaged plane. Wouldn't he have known better by this point?
    David

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    Hello David, Keven and All

    In the light of the official flying control evidence, a second engine (same side) had failed at the worst possible moment, duing the final approach stage, to landing.

    The Flying Controller was aware that one engine had failed and had already given authority for Halifax LW139 to return and during the approach stage received "On two now", but for some strange reason this was omitted by the Court of Inquiry/Investigation Officer (who was acting as a President and the same rank as the Pilot, by the way), along with an Investigating Officer.

    I don't know why the Court of Investigation has failed to refer to the Flying Control Log which refers to the "On two now" and that loss of control had started to occur. The Pilot possibly knew that this aircraft might have a nose down impact on landing, as non essential crew were found at the rear facing aft, behind the rear spar, probably standard crash positions? A check of late WW2 Halifax Pilots Notes might confirm crash positions?

    It seemed they were more intent on blaming somebody, than considering the evidence properly, fully and logically. The Primary cause being engine failure. Also the RAF King's Regulations was very clear at paragraph 1318 that an Officer or Airman should be able to defend his reputation. K.R. 1318 is very clear that an Officer or Airman should be able to question witnesses, be allowed to offer any evidence and mount a defence, when it might affect his reputation.

    I have examined the surviving documentation and I am most unhappy that the dead Pilot has been blamed.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Hood; 13th January 2015 at 14:01. Reason: missed out word

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