[Monday 1/7/13] Airport officials say an antique Spitfire aircraft owned by engine company Rolls Royce collapsed shortly after landing at East Midlands Airport in central England.
The airport said in a statement the World War II-era plane’s undercarriage failed as it touched down Monday afternoon. The pilot was unharmed and the damaged aircraft was towed away.
The sleek-looking Spitfire played a pivotal role in the Battle of Britain, when the single-seat fighter helped beat back waves of German bombers. More than 20,000 were built, although only a few dozen remain in working order today.
Rolls Royce, which built the Merlin engines used to power the fighters, says it bought this plane in 1996. It typically appears at airshows and corporate functions.
Well, mostly. Warbird junkies will look at that photo, see the 5 bladed prop, the shape of the tail, and the longer fuselage and immediately realize that this one was one of the late models that was built with the Griffon engine. So it’s a bid of an odd bird for Rolls Royce to have, but it’s good that somebody is keeping the old lady in good condition.
Rolls-Royce bought the aircraft in 1996 and it underwent a major overhaul in 2010 - the first since it was built.
A spokesman for Rolls-Royce, which has a base at the airport, said the pilot was not hurt in the incident and they would co-operate fully with the Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), which is looking into the circumstances of the incident.
The airport was closed was shut while the plane was removed from the runway and the area cleared of debris.
An airport spokesman said seven flights were diverted to Birmingham and hundreds of passengers were bussed from Birmingham back to East Midlands.
The AAIB said a report on their investigation would be filed in due course.
Staff at Rolls-Royce could not confirm the condition of the plane since the incident but said it had been in the process of being made ready for a new season of air displays starting in April.
The Spitfire, PS853, was delivered to the RAF 68 years ago and designed as a fast, high-flying aircraft.
It was engaged on active service with 16 Squadron until the end of the war and participated in Operation Crossbow to detect German launch sites.
It remained on duty in Germany until March 1946 when it returned to the UK and was placed in storage.
Edward Coxon, from Hartshorne in Derbyshire, who was plane-spotting at the airport near Derby, told the BBC: “I was just looking at the planes coming in when, all of a sudden, there were loads of blue lights coming in from the other end of the runway.
“That’s when I saw the plane in the middle of the runway. I could hear on the radio that there was only one person on board and he was fine.”
The runway was closed because of the incident, which happened at 3.19pm on Monday, and flights were suspended while the plane was recovered and safety checks were made.
The Rolls-Royce Spitfire, PS853, is an unarmed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, one of a batch of 79 built at Supermarine, Southampton.
It is powered by a 2,050hp Griffon engine with a top speed of 446mph and is capable of flying at 42,000ft.
PS853 was delivered to the Central Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at RAF Benson on 13th January 1945, before moving to Belgium and Holland.
The aircraft was engaged on active service with 16 Squadron until the end of the war and participated in Operation Crossbow to detect German launch sites.
At the end of the war it remained on duty in Germany until March1946 when it returned to the UK and was placed in storage.
In 1950, PS853 was one of several Spitfires selected for conversion to conduct meteorological research, known as the Temperature and Humidity of the Upper Air Masses (THUM) Flight. PS853 performed the last ever Spitfire THUM sortie on 10th June 1957.
It then retired into ceremonial and display duties to form the RAF’s Historic Aircraft Flight, the forerunner of today’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
In 1996, Rolls-Royce bought PS853 to replace the original Rolls-Royce Spitfire XIV, G-ALGT, which had been destroyed in a crash in 1992.
The Rolls-Royce Spitfire, as PS853 is now popularly known, has become widely recognised as an ambassador for Rolls-Royce.
The aircraft is based in a dedicated hangar at East Midlands Airport and can be seen around the display circuit between April and October.
It’s always bothersome in any restoration that the most minor part can be fatigued to the point that its imminent failure is so easily overlooked, and so the wheels fall off literally in this case.Glad it survived.
There is a tool that can be used to check parts like that. It’s called Magnaflux. It’s sort of like an X-ray, and it shows stress lines in metal objects. When metal fatigues it weakens in several spots before it breaks, and Magnaflux will show them. I heard about this thing ages ago; it’s used by race engine builders to see if the crankshafts and connecting rods are up to the job when doing rebuilds. I have no idea what it costs, or how skillful the user has to be.