View Full Version : Warbirds - Currency & Experience

7th Jun 2001, 17:21
Having been at Biggin Hill this weekend just passed, and witnessing one of the crashes, and having read the entire thread on PPRuNe, I decided to find out how much experience the pilots of some warbirds which came to grief had.

The results make interesting and alarming reading.

The Jet Provost which went down in the Loch Foyle estuary. The pilot (who did well, by all accounts) had total experience of 298 hours, of which only 26 were on type. He had done just 2 hrs in the preceding 90 days and just 1 hour in the preceding 28 days.

The Yak-52 in Manchester - the pilot had 340 TT, 40 on type, 12 hrs in the preceding 90 days.

It gets worse.

Yak52, Oct 99, 39 hr on type

Yak52, Oct 99, 4 hrs in 90days, 0 hrs in 28 days

Hunter, Jun 98, 8 hrs on type

P47, Apr 99, ZERO hrs on type

Jet Provost 12/98, TT 259, 90 on type, 13hrs in 90 days, 4hrs in 28 days

Yak50 01/99, 90 on type, 5 hrs in 90 days, 2 hrs in 28 days

Yak52 01/99, 13 on type, 31 in 90 days, 10 in 28 days

Yak52 09/98 85 TT, 6 on type

Spitfire Mk IX 08/98, 54 hrs on type

Vampire 05/98, 52 on type, 6 hrs in 90 days, the same 6 in 28 days

Messerschmitt 109G 10/97, 18hrs on type, one hr in 90 days, one hr in 28 days

Vampire 11/97, 7 hrs on type

Yak50, 10/97, 2 hrs on type

Yak52 7/97, 33 hrs on type

P38J Lightning, Duxford 7/96, 60 on type, 11hrs in 90, 5 hrs in 28 days

Venom 07/96, 9 hrs on type

Sopwith Tripe 3/97, 9 hrs on type

Spitfire 9/96, 82 hrs on type, 12 hrs in 90 days, 4 hrs in 28 days

Yak50 9/96, 4 hrs on type

Sea Fury replica 9/95, 6 hrs on type

Yak52, 8/96, 22 hrs on type

I have only looked back as far as 1996. I have also not gone into the detail of every incident. But I think you will agree with me that it does seem that the following formula holds true :

Light on Type Experience + High powered aircraft = Incident/Accident/Death

I know several people who own Warbirds, and have flown a couple, dual. Some of these aircraft are fearsome machines. Lightnings and Buccaneers spring to mind. Even when frontline squadrons were using aircraft such as these, with money no object and parts no problem, they suffered losses. And that was with experienced, well-trained pilots who had been through the mill. Guys who have a bit of money and buy warbirds, and do a couple of hours a month in them seem to be in the 'high-risk' category, as shown by the short list above.

Another thing - piloting a civilian jetliner and piloting a fighter aircraft are two very different kettles of fish. Just because a pilot has 10,000 hrs on airliners does not make him a good fighter pilot.

Again, my heartfelt condolences to everyone touched by the losses this weekend gone by, and to anyone touched by any of the incidents I described above.

7th Jun 2001, 18:21
Your point although well made is also a little obvious.

Given the extremely high costs of owning and operating these machines, the limitations of life and scarcity of some components, and the almost complete lack of "usefull work" available for these beasts, how are you going to get anybody in the air often enough to keep really current ?
As has been previously mentioned, many of the piston types were designed during war time when the operational life expectancy of the machine was not more than a very few hours. That is not to say they were designed to be disposable, but it doesn't mean they were built for longevity either. They are, by design, maintenance intensive.
Yes, there are professionals who make a full time job out of flying these types, but there are many types and only a scarce few professionals. For these pilots to keep optimum currency on all the types available, they would have to fly three times more often (presumably gaining no revenue from it) and the aircraft would wear out three times as fast.
So who's going to pay for it all ?

If you have plenty of cash you can go out and buy a Ferrari, drive it hard, and there will always be the possibility that you may accidentally kill yourself in it.
However undesirable, you can do the same thing in an aeroplane. It might be as rare as a Spitfire, but the owner has the right to do with it as he or she wishes (within reason).
FlyingLawyer summed it up absolutely perfectly in his original post concerning the crashes - it is worth reading again.

People are free to try to climb Everest, or race yachts around the world solo, or indulge in whatever passtime they choose, as long as they don't hurt others and are prepared for the consequences. The difference here is, in return for doing it publicly (and sharing the joy of their sport with those who can't do it themselves), the occasional tragic consequence may also be a very public one. That is the price they choose to pay.

[This message has been edited by Weary (edited 07 June 2001).]

7th Jun 2001, 20:51
I concur..and I also thought Flying Lawyer's post was excellent. I'm not advocating NOT flying these aircraft..it is the duty of museums to aquire types for posterity. The burden of buying, restoring and maintaining rare aircraft should not be borne by private owners.

What I DO think though, is that before Mr. X is allowed to climb in his Hunter (for example), he should have completed an approved training course, including training on other, specified, less demanding aircraft.

What we are talking about here are civilian fast jet pilots, and very powerful piston-engined aircraft pilots.

In both instances, service pilots flying these aircraft had to complete a rigorous training program, not a five-thousand quid PPL & a conversion.

There are VERY good reasons for that, don't you agree?

7th Jun 2001, 21:36
In the USA, the FAA requires a "Letter of Competancy" including a check ride, for some of these machines. Does the UK CAA require the same?

7th Jun 2001, 21:52

I am bound to say that I am not sure where this conversation is going.. I can only speak for the JP stuff as that is the limit of my experience.

The RAF used the JP as a BASIC trainer... that means that pilots would fly the aircraft after relatively few hours.

My experience of instructing and checking out pilots in the JP is that the total number of hours on type and overall is only one, and quite a small one, factor affecting competance. Interestingly, low houred pilots get rusty more quickly and don't have the overall awareness of more experienced ones.

Finally, the TYPE of flying that make up a pilots hours are crucial. 500 hours wandering around in a C150 is almost no use at all, 200 hours in multiple type and environments makes all the difference.

If you fly too close to the ground at too slow speed, the earth will rise up and smite thee.

Raw Data
7th Jun 2001, 23:06
I'm afraid that in far too many cases, it still comes down to people with very large wallets (and frequently, egos to match) being able to obtain and fly these rare aircraft.

No-one denies the right of the individual to do what they want, and take whatever risks they want. However, there will come a day when most of not all warbirds are gone... how many Sea Furies do you see flying these days? Mosquitos? Beaufighters? this is largely down to losses over the years through display, or other, flying. I'm sure that some will justify this on the basis of the individuals' right to do whatever they please with their own property, however my contention is that owners of rare warbirds have a moral (if not legal) responsibility to safeguard these machines. They are, after all, part of our national heritage, and there aren't many left.

The obvious shortfalls are in training, currency and overall experience. Sure, a JP is a straightforward trainer that should present few difficulties. However, the same cannot be said for a lot of the warbirds out there in private hands.

I would love to be able to afford and run a warbird, as I suspect many of us would. The trick is to be able to afford to keep current and skilled, as well.

I have thought this since watching Charles Church kill himself and a Spitfire in a field near Blackbushe 11 or so years ago. It left an indelible impression.

One thing is for sure, when they are all gone, people will look back and wonder if it was worth it...

7th Jun 2001, 23:13
This is a very thoughtful and well reasoned thread, and I accept all of the points that have been made.

But.. and it's a big but, what happens when a warbird falls on to the proverbial school or old peoples' home?

One such incident, and the game might well be over. So it must be self regulation, and less ambitious displays.

Mustn't it?

7th Jun 2001, 23:40
Interesting to see how few piston warbirds were in Stonebird's list.
Lots of Yak 50/52 aerobatic a/c.
I also agree with the compliments about Flying Lawyer's contribution on the other thread on this topic. One of the best posts I've ever read on PPRuNE.

[This message has been edited by neutral99 (edited 07 June 2001).]

7th Jun 2001, 23:56
I don't quite understand your point. You indicate low time in type but how does one aquire high time in type. Catch 22. I'd be as interested in total times listed(there were a few). And anyone with 10,000 hrs in a civilian jetliner is either ex-military(with the appropriate experience) or a civilian background, like myself, who has considerable experience in many types of aircraft. Either way I'd bank my money on that "10,000 hr civilian jetliner pilot" you're quick to dismiss. The skills involved in "fighting" aerial combat maneuvers may differ but the flying skills of any 10,000 hr pilot are proven.

8th Jun 2001, 00:17
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">No-one denies the right of the individual to do what they want, and take whatever risks they want. However, there will come a day when most of not all warbirds are gone... how many Sea Furies do you see flying these days? Mosquitos? Beaufighters? this is largely down to losses over the years through display, or other, flying. I'm sure that some will justify this on the basis of the individuals' right to do whatever they please with their own property, however my contention is that owners of rare warbirds have a moral (if not legal) responsibility to safeguard these machines. They are, after all, part of our national heritage, and there aren't many left.</font>

I think it's been said before but bears repeating. Without the money and effort expended on restoring these warbirds with the primary intent being to fly them, they wouldn't even exist, but would be beer cans or still rotting where they lay.

8th Jun 2001, 02:30
Stonebird, yes recency & currency have a role, but so does total experience. I have history books that tell of young men taken from farms, offices and the whole community being trained as pilots and then, with maybe 100 hours total aeronautical experience, 'endorsed' onto Spitfires & Hurricanes and told "go fight this machine and defend the free world"

I guess it's all relative!


8th Jun 2001, 02:40
I would also point out that those 10,000 hour pilots who are flying these machines have probably NOT been the type to just fly a 737 for all those hours and then jump into a warbird, but have probably flying more appropriate aircraft for ALL their flying years.

Office Update
8th Jun 2001, 04:08
A sad occasion at Biggin Hill!

Regretfully there are too many so called airline pilots who by and large think because they fly these mighty machines (Boeings etc)that this makes them qualified to fly former 'high performance' single and multi engine warbirds.

It is my observation that these airline chappies are in the same catergory as doctor, dentists, lawyers and other well to do. It's a common occurance that these machines are owned and operated by wealthy people who by and large 'buy' their qualifications. In the 'old' days a person was taught in a proper aircraft (tailwheel) and learnt from day one the finer point of handling aircraft.

Flying a Mustangs, Spitfire, King Cobra's is no big deal it just a matter of understanding what makes the aircraft tick. The loss of the Mosquito (UK)is a typical example of 'over doing it'. I have refrained from suggesting 'showing off' out of respect for those cannot defend themselves.

Anyone can fly these machines with common sense but once you get a band of aviators in a close knit group be it a bar room or airshow, common sense goes out the window as people try to outperform each other and they forget that these aircraft are highly tuned 'killing machines', during the 40's as air combat aircraft and during the 90's as civil airshow mounts.

Airshow pilots need to learn respect for these aircraft, otherwise the authorities will ground these machines and then the next generation, will never get to see or hear a Merlin, Allison, or Goblin type engine at full power. That would be a sad day for all in aviation. Please be carefull.

8th Jun 2001, 15:11
I am glad to see the content of this thread, as it was one I was going to start myself.

I also feel that whilst a 'man with too much money, is soon flying something too powerful for him'. The right of an individual to kill himself in any way he can afford is a fundamental democratic right. Thus over regulation will kill off the warbird industry.

However, if we look at the machines involved we must accept that they were made to fly and fight at high level away from the ground. They were made to be flown by fit young men with good reaction times, albeit with maybe low total experience. They were not made, designed or intended in any way to be aerobatted at 500' by an overweight middle aged millionaire or an ex-service pilot now flying in the airlines who's aerobatic experience was gained twenty or more years ago but has the right connections at Duxford. (And I am not targetting any particular individual here)

Even if we accept that the ex-service instructor has an excellent background to work on, he is still expected to put the aircraft into manouveres and positions that in war time would have been a last ditch effort to avoid getting shot down. (lets face it when down to the tree's in the Battle of Britain speed was what counted not flashy aerobatics).

I'm afraid that the way forward as I see it is to follow the American lead and ask for greater competency checks before being licenced to fly these types, regardless of previous experience. To restrict airshow aerobatics to limited positive G manouveres at a much greater DA's than currently allowed. (One person I spoke to recently admired another individual who apparently holds a DA of 3' !!)

This may dissapoint a few morons who go to airshows to see crashes. But that's a small price to pay to preserve the industry.

I will leave the final word to my wife (what's new) when she stated that whilst she enjoyed all of last year Cottesmore air show, particularly the 'hecopleter' displays, just watching the Battle of Britain flight fly by straight and level bought tears to her eyes and made the whole day worthwhile. Can the airshow industry ask for more?

8th Jun 2001, 16:00
Brad737..I donīt really have a point, Iīm just discussing this...

You are right about the Catch-22 situation; how does one go about getting more experienced on these high performance aircraft if one does not fly them as an inexperienced learner? Well, if one plans to fly a Spitfire, for example, one should graduate from a Chippie to a Harvard, possibly to a Hurricane, and then only to a Spitfire. We arenīt at war now, thereīs no need to press pilots into cockpits of ex-fighters with minimal experience on type. But, there will be the time when the inexperienced pilot goes solo on the big birds..and it is dangerous. See how many die.

Sure the flying skills of any 10,000 hr airline pilot are proven. I donīt dispute this, I just said that I donīt think they necessarily make good fighter pilots. OK, their total experience is significant, but lets take long-haul pilots into consideration. 100 ten-hour flights makes up 1000 hrs of flying time. In a 5 minute display the pilot will need more skill than he has even seen demonstrated in all those 1000 hrs. Foxmoth says that line pilots are constantly exercising their skills in other types of aircraft. I beg to differ. Modern schedules are so hectic many pilots donīt get enough sleep even!!

Papertiger. You are right .. I think they should be flown, as I said, itīs the responsibility of the museums to preserve aircraft. If Mr. X has coughed a half-mil for a Spit, he is entitled to destroy it if he so wishes.

BUT lets start looking at this a little more deeply.
Mr. X buys the Spit, gets a PPL, gets a conversion, and 3 months later heīs ready to join the display circuit! OK, not all display pilots are that inexperienced, but some are. Some have very few hours on type.
A specific warbird is in demand, not a specific pilot. If Mr X has bought a famous warbird, he will be under pressure to display it, either himself or via a proxy.
Doubtless he will want to do it himself.
As soon as Mr. X feels ready, he approaches the airshow officials and they jump at the chance to feature that warbird - helps draw the crowds, gets the money in...not many questions are asked of Mr. X...

They are flying these machines very low and very close to tightly-packed crowds of thousands. It simply is not as safe as HAZELL checks at 4000 AGL. Sure, Joe Public is aware of this, pays his money and takes his chances, but just how aware is Joe Public of how much higher the chances of injury or death to himself and his family are?

What additional dangers are there due to displaying different types together, aerobatically? Different weights, different momentums...yet stuck to each other like glue? Flown by 30-hr pilots?

Personally, Iīll take my chances, and I would not like display flying at airshows to stop.

However, having said that, I would be equally happy to leave the aerobatics to the Pitts, the Extras and the modern jet fighters, flown in the capable hands of skilled and current military pilots. The warbirds I would be happy to see cruise past, doing a few steep turns perhaps...Raw Data has a very valid point - what happens when there are no more machines? eh?

Now who will be the first to fly a 100-year old aircraft?

Raw Data
8th Jun 2001, 17:08

Your argument doesn't fly for a number of reasons.

1) Most aircraft that are capable of being restored to even static condition, are. None are left to rot- just look at the contents of many small aviation musuems, who save anything that even looks vaguely aviation related (and good on them). For example, how many Vulcans can you think of that have been cut up for scrap?

2) Given that an aircraft is restored to flying condition, it can be displayed safely. I for one would never want to see these aircraft grounded- my point is simply that they should not be risked by using them for low-level aerobatics. Look at many of the recent accidents, and you will see examples of pilot error where the margin for error was zero. Accidents are inevitable if you take risks- unfortunately the egos of some display pilots lead them to try things they (or the aircraft) are not capable of.

3) Irrespective of why the aircraft has been restored, I still believe there is a moral obligation on the owner to safeguard them as rare artifacts of our heritage (that doesn't mean don't fly them). A little like listed buildings, or areas or special historical significance.

As I said, it's too late when they are all gone...

8th Jun 2001, 17:42
Stonebird asked who will be first to fly a 100 year old aircraft.

Old Rhinebeck Airdrome in Rhinebeck New York USA has a motley collection of WW 1, pre WW 1 and a few newer aircraft that are flown on sunny weekends by a motley collection of aviators.

Of this whole bunch of aircraft I don't think there are more than several pieces of a few of the aircraft that are original. They have been rebuilt, wrecked, rebuilt again and deteriorated so many times that though they probably certainly look like they did in 1907, they may even fly like they did in 1907, but they aren't still the same airplane. Most are in fact replicas.

These aircraft fly a lot slower and a lot lower than even the most minimal WW II warbird (Austers, Taylorcraft and Cubs excepted)and many (but not all) are much more survivable when crashed.

The 100th anniversary of THE BROTHERS flight is about 2 1/2 years from now. The aircraft they flew is in a museum and not likely to ever be flown again. It has been repaired and flown an number of times since it's first flight and modified, then returned to "original" configuration. Spent years in a museum in the UK and then in the US where it has been disassembled and assembled for transportation. Not sure how many original parts there are in it, but that will be the first chance at a 100 year old airplane.

If "real" warbirds are thought of as historic artifacts they will be kept in museum conditions and maintained in a state for preservation, but will not be flown as the risk is too great. No responsible museum curator would allow for the chance of distruction of the artefact and no insurance company would cover it. While it is the right (or privilage) of Mr multizillionare Bloggs to buy the last Hurricane (if he can) fly it to whatever levels his competence or vanity desires and turn it into scrap to be parceled out in 1" square sections it is also supremely irresponsible for him to do that and like many things that are legal it sure would be dumb and not in the least admirable.

8th Jun 2001, 19:23
Stonebird et al,

JP in Loch Foyle......would more experience have allowed the engine to run longer with no fuel?

Yak 50/52......Warbirds? Only in the minds of some of the owners.

1,000 hours long haul equals how many minutes hands on flying? Cannot see the relevance. Flying Lawyer makes the most sense, re-read his posts on this thread and the "biggin crash" one.

Edited because I am thick.....

[This message has been edited by Yosser (edited 08 June 2001).]

t'aint natural
8th Jun 2001, 19:51
Further to a previous post, I believe the original Wright Flyer spent the Second World War in Camden Town Underground Station, having been moved there for safety reasons.
(This, though interesting, is a non sequitur within the context of this thread, but I hope nobody minds)

"Fair is foul, foul is fair,
Hover through the fog and filthy air..." Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 1

[This message has been edited by t'aint natural (edited 08 June 2001).]

8th Jun 2001, 19:55
I think you have inadvertantly answered Stonebird's point.
I think in regard to the JP, the point was that perhaps the more experienced pilot would have been more aware of his fuel state!

8th Jun 2001, 21:02
Raw Data

I don't really disagree with you and others who express the same sentiment. I have no need to see warbirds and other antiques thrown around the sky, or blatting about a few feet off the ground. (I no longer attend 'displays', having witnessed too many disasters involving airplanes old and new, fast and slow.)

My point is that the general public who do go expect to see a 'good show' from all the participants. Aerobatics are performed much better by Extras, Sukhois etc., raw power -smoke and noise- by Tornados, F-16s and so on. Which leaves the warbirds in a bit of a quandry. Conservative displays consisting of a few s&l passes are unlikely to excite most of the 'punters', with the probable result of no return booking, and thus reduced income.

I remember when the total UK flying warbird population was 2 Spits and a Hurricane. That there are so many more today is not due to any 'heritage' initiative, but because of individuals, film companies and other commercial enterprises. I cannot see where any formal 'obligation', moral or otherwise, exists although to their credit many of the aforesaid owners do in fact feel there is. I would also dispute them being part of the UK's history, since only a few have any links in that regard.

Otherwise I'm with you. Keep 'em flying, but keep it safe.


[This message has been edited by PaperTiger (edited 08 June 2001).]

8th Jun 2001, 22:58
Alot of good points are brought up. On the Military Pilots forum, one of the threads was "Why USAF displays were so tame?" Its a Catch 22, people want to see the planes flown at max performance, yet others decry all the accidents. The answer lies in flying the aircraft to the limit of the pilots abilities! I fly a C-141 in the reserves, and sometimes I've been asked to do some displays at local airshows. I can tell you the pressure is high to "put on a good Show" even in a C-141!!!, Last year at an airshow I had some guy come up to me and tell me how cool my take-off was, It wasn't anything different than a normal take-off, yet he enjoyed it. I've managed to narrow down my "show" to an acceptable level between safety and "WoW" However it may be easier to do this flying a heavy since the "Wow" expectations are lower. Its hard to get currency in the rare birds due to the costs, so the answer lies in flying less aggressive displays. I've seen it myself, firsthand when an F-86 crashed doing , of all things, a slow flight demo, theres also a US pilot who will surely wreck a Mustang if he keps up his routine..sad but I don't see things changing unless some groups get together and start managing the flying displays and pilots. A Mustang or Spitfire is as beautiful in level flight as it is doing acro!

8th Jun 2001, 23:56
@Mach78 :
remember the A310 of Hapag-Llyod that went down short before VIE with tanks dryer than a desert ?
Captain had senority No.1 at Hapag-Llyod , logged more than 20.000 hours according to the media...

8th Jun 2001, 23:57
Let's face it: flying old fast jets and high powered single pistons is inherently more dangerous than flying a B737. Why? Because the 737 has been designed to be so safe that, theoretically, it will NEVER crash. It is designed so that less than average pilots can fly safely. No disrespect to some of the excellent pilots who are flying the 737, and all the other civilian types I am really thinking of, but there are lots of third world pilots, who might not have the aviation culture to help them, who seem to manage to fly these aicrraft without too many problems.

But big pistons in particular, can bite. And they do bite, and thank goodness not everyone is so scared of them that they never fly. Museum aircraft are totally academic: a flying aircraft soemthing thrilling.

But because they bite, and because much of the flying is display flying, its likely that a few pilots will bite the dust over time. Really good pilots rather like to get closer to the edge of the envelope. And if you think about it, unless you were a bit of an extrovert (even an apparent introvert has to have a fling occasionally), you probably would not bother with the high cost of operating a Sea Fury, or a Bearcat, P47 etc.

My bet is that, apart from the threat of hurting some innocent individual, most of these pilots would prefer to die in their aircraft, doing what they really enjoyed doing, than getting cancer in old age. Sadly we live in a society that doesn't understand this.

PaperTiger, I think you are spot on. Some other posters seem to forget that many very well qualified display pilots, Red Arrows etc., have died in accidents, and these people were not the rich playboys than some would think. In fact, in many cases they were some of the finest most inspirational people you would be likely to meet, and their names live on.

Of course, this last weekend was a disaster. I sincerely hope, and expect, that GAD will not over-react: at least no spectators were hurt. We could all have done without this.


9th Jun 2001, 00:39
Just a thought, if there were no warbirds at all, would those same pilot's be flying other aircraft and doing the same sort of thing - you bet! If there were no warbirds there would be more Extra crashes, more Stampe crashes etc. I know that they may be considered easier to fly, but if someone pushes too hard in warbird and stalls at low level (for instance), then surely they are likely to do the same in whatever aircraft? Restricitng displays to a few turns and flypasts will only put off the public and yet another good thing about Britain will go down the pan. We (Britain) have had a very good display record in previous years due to some effort put in by a lot of people and decent pilots, they took their own risks and by its very nature display flying is dangerous. The public are generally extremely safe at airshows as demonstrated by the excellent record. Would some of you have made F1 a timed race with a straight road with only 1 car at a time after Ayrton Senna's death? or do we make sure things are safe and carry of with our lives, while remembering those who have been lost and learning from their accidents. Interestingly lots of 50 something males lose thier lives on motorbikes each year, but no one is saying that Triumphs should be locked away in garages and never ridden. Being hit by a motorcycle on a country road frightens me more than standing watching an airshow.

My deepest sympathy to those involved.

9th Jun 2001, 00:42
This is not a criticism but merely an observation.

When I lived and worked in Australia I was in an area with its fair share of 'war birds'(T-28 Trojan, Spitfire, Hurricane, Kittihawk, P51 Mustang, even MiG15 & 17).

One thing I remember on reflection is that almost without exception all the powerful tailwheel (I know the T-28 is conventional)piston war birds were flown by current ag pilots who all had 5,000+hr on tailwheel aircraft of 400hp+ and spent all day below 200ft. Also the jets were usually operated by ex fast jet(A4 or Mirage) pilots who were still of modest years.

Now I don't fit into either of these groups(apart from the sub group of those of modest years) but then I'm not about to try and display one of these types of aircraft! My point is that it is horses for courses and experience is important, but THAT EXPERIENCE MUST BE RELEVANT!!!

Please be careful, these aircraft are treasures and should operate in their natural environment, but they are not more important or precious than human life!

9th Jun 2001, 00:46
There will always be exceptions to the rule, but I'd hardly think in general terms it would sensible to argue for less as opposed to more experience.

9th Jun 2001, 01:24
Stone bird,
I do feel that despite a lot of counter proposals, your reasoning is sound, if these people who are well heeled enough to buy, rebuild and run say a Spit or Mustang,then surely they must have the funds to allow someone(the Pilot) to spend sufficient hours building up his experience.
Several years ago I was involved in selling props and Griffon 58's to some of the Reno Racer's, these guys had hours and hours of air time but not many actually at racing speeds, to give you some idea 2 years ago a Griffon powered P51 hybrid broke up at high speed parts of that a/c were found between 4/5 miles away from the point of incident the racing height had been below 250ft, needless to say the Pilot died, but before that race incident, I asked what would occur if something big stopped working, the answer was " pull back on the stick gain altitude and then glide in" but with the fuel used and the boosted 3500 horses thrashing a pair of cut down contra props the pilot in my opinion had no chance at all, logic said that, but they still flew these reptylian racers, our chaps are trying to please air show organisers with low and slow aerobatics, it would be far better if they were made to do simple displays at + 500ft and fast enough to ensure the minimum design envelope was flown unless landing, that way they would hopefully have more reaction time if things got a little out of shape.

Sorry for the long post but in all warbird incidents, I sadly feel that most of the old warbirds have accidents because of the lack of pilot knowledge on type, incl the Reno Racers. this is my opinion, I am not calling any particular person or group, but I feel that if your going to fly something with +1000 horse's then you should have the hours on type!
I am saddened for anyone touched by the most recent losses

9th Jun 2001, 14:44
re: the earlier post with the following quote:
"Flying a Mustangs, Spitfire, King Cobra's is no big deal it just a matter of understanding what makes the aircraft tick. The loss of the Mosquito (UK)is a typical example of 'over doing it'. I have refrained from suggesting 'showing off' out of respect for those cannot defend themselves"

If you had studied the accident report on the Mossie in July 96 you would know that this was not "a typical case of over doing it". Go and check it out and be careful what you say please!

9th Jun 2001, 23:26
It's well known that the chap flying the 109G when it went in was:

a) A top man
b) a great 'stick'
c) an enormously experienced fighter/FJ pilot
d) a similarly experienced single-engined warbird and display pilot.


"Messerschmitt 109G 10/97, 18hrs on type, one hr on type in the previous 90 days (even if it was within the previous 28 days)" doesn't strike me as being sensible, or defensible, and looks astonishingly like complacency, arrogance or a failure of sensible risk assessment.

No-one should be displaying a powerful fighter type without having undergone the equivalent to an OCU training course, and without being fully 'current' on type (suggest a minimum of 120 FH/PA).

10th Jun 2001, 03:57
Don't the promoters of these airshows check/ask the experience level of the pilots participating?? What if one of these PPL P-51 pilots careens into the crowd out of control?

Alty Meter
10th Jun 2001, 15:56
A lot of people on this thread, and the original 'Biggin crash' one, seem to think that anyone with enough money can take part in an air display. Wrong!
You need a CAA Display Authorisation before you can take part in a display, and the people who decide whether a pilot is up to the job know what they're doing.
That's much more effective than the show organisers (who may not be even Cessna-PPLs assessing if the pilot's got got enough experience either in total or on type.

As for P51's careering off into the crowd. There isn't now, and never has been, a problem with P51's or any other type of warbird, careering off into the crowd. Doesn't that tell us that somebody must be doing something right?

Reading the two threads, I can't help feeling that some (I say again, some) of the contributors making assumptions, comments and suggestions about the system don't know much if anything about what actually goes on in the airshow world, particularly the warbirds side of things. Perhaps I'm wrong.
(PS I'm not saying I know that much myself. I don't.)

10th Jun 2001, 17:07
Alty Meter - At last some sensible opinion. I Agree 1000% with your sentiments, especially the last para. I have only just started to re-read this thread after getting so depressed reading all the drivel that was being written about last weekend.
Mach 78 - Who is suggesting that the JP in N.Ireland ran out of fuel? Do you have the facts and have you seen the official AAIB report yet?

10th Jun 2001, 19:19
"isn't now and never has been". September 6, 1952, DH 110 crashed at Farnborough, with loss of very distinguished pilot (DH chief test pilot John Derry), one passenger, and 28 spectators in the crowd.

10th Jun 2001, 23:46
As far as I am aware, there are varying degrees of display authorisation which will be granted depending upon the experience of the particular pilot.

One inspector told me he would rather approve someone to demonstrate a basic loop and a barrel roll in an Extra 300 (for example) because that is what the person was 'safely capable of doing', even though the aeroplane is capable of far more.

The implication is obvious, that an authorisation will be granted to give the highest safety factor, be it pilot or aeroplane.

Aeroplanes are built to be flown, and enjoyed, not to be left to rot in museums.

[This message has been edited by airforcenone (edited 10 June 2001).]

11th Jun 2001, 00:06
Zlin 526, I wondered about that when I read Yassers original post. The AAIB report can be found at...


11th Jun 2001, 05:39
If you check Stonebirds post earlier in the thread-that's where you will find the suggestion.
My issue was one of whether greater or lesser experience is of value when it comes to reducing accidents, not the specifics of this report which clearly I had no time to read.
Some people have to fly you know.

Alty Meter
12th Jun 2001, 00:06
I stand by what I said. "There isn't now, and never has been, a problem with P51's or any other type of warbird, careering off into the crowd."
I didn't say no such incident had ever happened.
I'll take your word for the incident 49 years ago - I was only one then!

12th Jun 2001, 01:40
My first entry into this debate. Speaking from my position "on the fence" as it were. I sincerely hope that the events of the Biggin weekend never ever happen again. Unfortunately the laws of probability are against us.

My personal view is that aircraft should be flown, if they are the last of the breed then possibly discretion should be the better part of valour, but flown they should be if at all possible.

I think it is unfair to compare the DH110 accident with the possibility of a P-51 accident. The DH110 was a prototype, very advanced for its day. As such the technology was being pushed to the limits in the design of the aircraft.

A P-51 is pretty much a known quantity technology wise, that is not to say that a catastrophic failure couldn’t happen, these aircraft are after all being flown for longer (hours wise) than could ever have been expected when they were constructed. However the technology available nowadays for predicting the likelihood of failure and carrying out inspections is far in advance of when they were designed. So any comparison with a catastrophic failure in a 1950's prototype and a warbird maintained to current standards is, in my opinion unfair.

At the end of the day, any decision on the type of display flown is a tripartite one between the Pilot, the owner and the CAA. If one takes a step back to get a perspective, things aren't that bad. Any accident is bad, but we have to be realistic, it is after all, a risk to get in a car and drive down the road. The trick is to minimise that risk whilst still being able to make the journey.

Sorry for rambling, but I had to say my piece. I will now crawl back under the rock I came from.



12th Jun 2001, 17:35
Many moons ago as a civilian employee of the USN I had the pleasure of attending the Pilot Training Course for a single seat fast (okay, it wasn't supersonic, so I guess it wasn't that fast) jet type in regular and numerous squadron service.

The curriculium was 2 weeks of classroom, about 30 hours of simulators and I forget how much more airborne time. As it was a single seater your first flight was also your first solo in type. The incoming people were either right out of undergraduate jet pilot training (UJPT)or back from the fleet, either in another type or second tour in this type. At that point even the right out of UJPT you would have had 500 curriculium hours in T-28/T34C , T-2, and TA-4J, which probably means 750 or so actual plus whatever other time you managed to wangle in anything else with wings.

Point of this overlong post is that requiring something like an OCU training standard for display pilots should make things safer but it (airplanes, simulators, classrooms and current in type instructors) would be very costly, especially for types that there are very few left of.

Practically speaking, a very experienced aviator with enough (whatever that is) time in type or similar types given enough (whatever that is) recent experience in a type should be able to provide a fairly thrilling display for the punters of some mild aerobatics. "Enough" time in type is open to pilot judgement, but I don't think 1.7 hours would even pass a cursory laugh test.

13th Jun 2001, 04:12
My point is that the promoters of airshows should have a moral/legal responsibility to ensure that the primary participants are well capable and qualified to perform the manuevers. If the afor stated circumstances are true, then it would appear that some of these pilots were not ready, prepared, and/or practiced. Even with supposed tight controls like those that should have been at the Ramstein airshow tragedy a few years back, stupidity (flying high risk maneuvers toward the crowd) was evidently condoned. Great airshows can be put on with minimal risk, but that doesn't include pilots with almost no experience in type or pilots that are not well-current in-type and in the maneuvers to be flown. In the U.S., general aviation accident statistics are full of rich guys with hot airplanes that are way out of their skill level.

I'd rather see these old warbirds sitting rotting idle awaiting competent owners than see them and their owners smoking holes.

[This message has been edited by Roadtrip (edited 13 June 2001).]