View Full Version : Engine failure in WWII

4th Dec 2019, 19:58
Hello. I don't know if this is the right place to ask these things. If not, I apologize in advance. I'd like to know if, during the WWII, a twin engine aircraft could fly without an engine.

1) Is it correct that a twin engined aircraft, in normal contitions, has exactly twice the power needed to fly?

2) Could an aircraft like a Vickers Wellington take off and/or fly with one engine out of service?

Thanks in advance.

5th Dec 2019, 08:26
1. The power needed depends on the aircrat weight. A heavily loaded aircraft might just have enough power to maintain height on one engine, but it's not as simple as having twice the power.
2. If it tried to take off, the assymetric power would turn the aircraft and it would leave the runway before there was enough speed to enable the rudder to keep the aircraft straight. Every twin- or multi-engine aircraft has a "safety speed" below which it is not possible to maintain controlled flight. In the case of the Mosquito an engine failure immediately after takeoff - before reaching that speed - could be fatal.

5th Dec 2019, 08:50
Engine failure in WWII

Nothing to do with WWII. Aeroplanes will not take with only one engine on one side NOW.

5th Dec 2019, 09:47
Aero Commander famously demonstrated the 500's single engined performance by flying the prototype from Bethany to Washington on one engine - with the prop stowed in the cabin!

longer ron
5th Dec 2019, 09:59
With some Twin engined aircraft - the old saying went something like....

The remaining (live) engine would take you to the scene of the ensuing crash.

5th Dec 2019, 10:04
1) No. A twin has enough power on one engine to fly a specified minimum climb rate at MTOW, but several older types may not be able to achieve this.
2) Most likely not. Taking off with such a massive power imbalance would be near impossible, as mentioned above. Flying with one engine out might be possible provided the loading would allow this and the aircraft has enough speed.

5th Dec 2019, 10:40
Did a spot of ME training on the Vickers Varsity which was powered by 2 Bristol Siddley Hercules 264 engines - it was a derivative of the Wellington and the Viking.

Rotation speed was around 85kts and 2 eng safety speed was 105kts. Thus, if an engine failed between 85 and 105kts, you were going to crash. Directional control between those speeds could only be maintained by reducing boost on the live engine.
Happy days!

5th Dec 2019, 11:31
A twin can get airborne on one engine, but it would require a very long runway. To begin with, very little power against maximum rudder. As the rudder becomes effective, more power can be added to balance it. However, before a sensible rotation, both VMCG and VMCA should be achieved. For the uninitiated, minimum control speed on the ground; minimum control speed in the air. Not a very sensible idea, and should only be used if the Martians are coming over the hill.

astir 8
5th Dec 2019, 15:01
Going back to the original question, I used to know a pilot who spent a lot of the war in a POW camp because his Blenheim wouldn't stay in the air on one engine. "I would have got home if it had had feathering propellers" was his comment.
I believe that Coastal Command Wellingtons were so heavily overburdened that losing one engine was very bad news.
And I used to be flown out of Wilson Airport Nairobi in a Partenavia P68 twin which I was told would level out on one engine at an altitude considerably lower than Nairobi if it was fully loaded (It was the same ex-Blenheim pilot!)

5th Dec 2019, 16:37
1) Is it correct that a twin engined aircraft, in normal contitions, has exactly twice the power needed to fly?

2) Could an aircraft like a Vickers Wellington take off and/or fly with one engine out of service?

Thanks in advance.

1) I do recall that the D18S (Beech 18) for exemple had a "Wartime Takeoff Weight" Written on its flying manual.
Noooo f.. way it could stay airborne on one at this published weight! It would barely take Off actually...
2) You are talking about WWII era type of aircraft so no.

Past inertia, twin engines with tail wheel cannot even taxi on one engine.

India Four Two
5th Dec 2019, 18:06
In the case of the Mosquito an engine failure immediately after takeoff - before reaching that speed - could be fatal.

Lift off at 120 mph. Takeoff safety speed 190 mph!

Listen to Keith Skilling describing his experiences in test-flying KA114.


Cornish Jack
6th Dec 2019, 12:54
Must have amassed considerable time in that period between lift-off and safety speed in the Anson, Valetta, Marathon, Hastings before arriving at the RAF's first Perf A aircraft - the mighty Bev! Then back to the 'waiting' in aaaaaahhh DH's Devon. It was one of those things best characterised by the FAA's reported utterance after a successful catapult launch - "Thank you God, I have control now!"

6th Dec 2019, 14:39
I had a boss who had been a Navigator on Mosquito's - he reckoned if anything went wrong it was a damn dangerous aircraft - hard to get out of for a start - and as you say - takeoff had no margin for error

6th Dec 2019, 15:43
The Mosquito makes the Canberra appear positively benign in the EFATO case, but sadly many found it not to be so

old,not bold
9th Dec 2019, 13:03
An evaluation of the BN2 Defender (military version BN2A Islander) in Abu Dhabi in the early 1970's drew the conclusion that the aircraft should be operated as though it was a single-engine aircraft and carry out a semi-controlled forced landing immediately if one engine failed.

IIRC the principal reason was that with a fullish load and summer air temperatures, the remaining engine could only be run at max continuous power for about 5 minutes before overheating, and that at any lower setting could not maintain level flight. In this regard it resembled quite a few older-generation military twins, some of which simply could barely maintain level flight on one engine at max weight at any power setting, let alone climb.

9th Dec 2019, 13:43
" that the aircraft should be operated as though it was a single-engine aircraft and carry out a semi-controlled forced landing immediately if one engine failed."

That's standard advice for a whole slew of US light twins built from the '50's onward - whatever the book says in most cases one engine just gives you a wider choice of where to put down. :ouch:

old,not bold
10th Dec 2019, 12:19
Yes; I did my twin-rating training and test on a Piper Aztec A; level flight on one engine was just possible with the instructor, me, and fuel for an hour or two. But with a normal load and fuel it was a case of quickly finding a good place to land before hitting the ground.

PS....I forgot to mention that neither in the training or the test did we attempt a simulated EFATO; the instructor described it as suicidal. "Pretend you're in a single and land ahead. Don't even think about trying a turnback, you'll crash and burn if you do."

11th Dec 2019, 06:17
I remember seeing pix of a Grumman Goose taking off on one engine, so of the era. Huge curved run, but they had cheated and fitted two turbo props with a bit more power.
Also, our commercial pilot giving me some engine out experience in a Piper Apache, so like an Aztec, but rather less power. This was at about 1500 ft in rain.:ooh:
Doubt we would have got far if one had failed for real.

21st Dec 2019, 13:20
My father was a Rad/Nav in Night Fighters, serving 3 Tours.

Losing an engine in a fully laden Mossie at take off = crash, as they found out!

On the roll, the port engine lost all it's glycol and his pilot attempted a low circle to get back to the field but there was not enough time. Here is the direct quote from my father's log book:

Time in the air: 5 minutes.

The three men were given the British Empire Medal. My father and his pilot continued operations until the end of the war. His pilot stayed on and became an Air Commodore. My father left the service in '46. They remained friends for life.

26th Dec 2019, 21:28
Hello. I don't know if this is the right place to ask these things. If not, I apologize in advance. I'd like to know if, during the WWII, a twin engine aircraft could fly without an engine.

1) Is it correct that a twin engined aircraft, in normal contitions, has exactly twice the power needed to fly?

2) Could an aircraft like a Vickers Wellington take off and/or fly with one engine out of service?

Thanks in advance.
Boris Johnson's grandad had an engine failure in a Wimpey shortly after departing Chivenor on an op during WW2 with a full load of bombs and depth charges. He immediatley elected to return to base but unfortunately after the dead engine caught fire and detached itself from the aircraft, he crash landed and sustained an injury which cut short his flying career.

27th Dec 2019, 11:28
To return to the OP’s question, here is a Wellington engine failure story. Nothing spectacular, but it illustrates the routine hazards (quite apart from enemy action) faced by aircrew in World War Two.

Like so many of his generation my father, Bill Setterfield, would not talk about his wartime experiences. The following comes in part from his logbook, and more from the diary kept by his co-pilot, New Zealander Cecil Rainey, part of which by a remarkable coincidence came my way in 2004.

On 12 July 1942 my father, newly qualified to fly the Wellington 1c and with a grand total of 265 hours in his logbook, took off from Portreath in Cornwall to deliver himself, Wellington HX487 and crew to 40 Squadron in Egypt, via Gibraltar and Malta. They reached Malta without incident, but for reasons unstated the aircraft remained on the island while my father and crew went on to Egypt as passengers in a DC3.

At this period 40 Squadron operated from various landing grounds in Egypt. Targets in my father’s logbook for July- November 1942 include Tobruk, Bardia, “Western Desert”, Mersa Matruh, “Enemy Transport”, “Enemy Concentrations”, “Shipping outside Tobruk”, “Tobruk – Minelaying”. Most of the squadron’s aircraft were well-worn and engine failures were frequent, with desert dust and sand no doubt a factor. “Returned – engine trouble” appears twice in my father’s logbook.

In early November 1942 six Wellingtons of 40 Sqn were detached to Malta, to operate from Luqa in support of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa which began on 8 November. My father and crew flew a sortie from Luqa on 8 November to bomb the airfield at Almas, Sardinia. They were tasked to attack the same target again on 10 November, this being my father’s 32nd operation. Their aircraft was Wellington 1c R1182. They found searchlights and some flak over the target but nothing too threatening. The rear gunner reported seeing their stick of bombs fall among parked aircraft.

About an hour into the return trip, on course for Malta, the starboard engine began to surge with increasing frequency. At 6000 feet, after a routine oil transfer to both engines, the same engine began to miss and bang, sending out sparks and flames. Before long it seized solid. [My understanding, but others may know better, is that the Wellington 1c with Pegasus XVIII engines had non-feathering propellors.] The co-pilot went back to help the rear gunner from his turret, and they set about jettisoning all moveable objects. From Cecil Rainey’s diary:

“Everything possible went out via the flare chute: flares, flame floats, surplus oil tins, incendiaries, everything loose. Even with full revs and full boost on the port motor she would not maintain height, and no wonder, for the starboard engine had seized up so tight that the prop was not turning. Aggy was working overtime on the set, getting QDMs and sending the SOS. The Malta searchlights came in sight but we were losing height too fast, so we did our drill – removed the astro hatch, pulled the floatation, removed parachute harnesses and prepared for the worst.

"To say the least, we hit the drink with a smack (75 mph) and pulled up in a very short distance. All the lights went out, but Church was out of the astro hatch like a shot and yelling that the dinghy was nowhere to be seen. I was hanging onto the dinghy rations with my left hand but managed to find the release with my right hand - immediately the dinghy burst forth from the starboard nacelle. The water was rising rapidly and Paddy had gone out, but somehow I had caught the sextant steadier over my shoulder and with the water up to my chest couldn't get away from it. Finally I let the rations go, freed myself and managed to get out."

So: my father's war-weary Wellington 1c was unable to maintain height on one engine. If there is any interest in the short sequel to this story, ie from dinghy to rescue, I will happily post more.

Good health to us all in the year ahead.

Self loading bear
27th Dec 2019, 13:14
Come on with the sequel.
Thread drift forgiven!
Best wishes to all Ppruners!

India Four Two
27th Dec 2019, 20:33

Post away!

28th Dec 2019, 03:50
OK, two nods will do! This is too slight a tale, I feel, to qualify for the “Gaining a Brevet” thread, so I hope the Mods will tolerate a little well-intentioned drift. To continue with Cecil Rainey’s diary:

“My flying boots were full of water so away they went, also my Irvine jacket – the latter when soaked becomes a terrific weight. Bill and Aggy, who had come out of the pilots’ escape hatch, were crawling along the fuselage, Paddy and Church were in the dinghy. Nick was on his way up from his turret.

“By this time the machine was almost completely submerged. Aggy was helping Bill, who couldn’t swim but had his Mae West inflated, while I put Nick into the dinghy. Nick still had his full kit on, making the job pretty tough, and by the time it was done the machine had completely disappeared, tail fin and all. I helped Aggy get Bill into the dinghy, then we both climbed aboard.

“It was pitch black, our only consolation being the searchlights over Malta. We had no Verey pistol with us – the nuts on the pistol were so tight that Aggy had not been able to loosen them. So we knew we had to wait for the dawn. Luckily the dinghy had worked perfectly, not the slightest leak. Everybody got comfortable and settled down for a long cold wait. Aggy knew that our SOS had been acknowledged, which was a cheering thought.

“The dinghy was tossing in the swell and all except Ag and I were hanging over the side. Numerous aircraft passed overhead but our .38s were useless for signalling. After about two hours we saw the searchlight of the Air Sea Rescue boat, but we couldn’t signal to them and in spite of our energetic whistling we remained unnoticed. The minutes slowly drifted by, until dawn began to blot out the stars and the outline of the Gozo cliffs began to show up.

“We heard the chugging of a small boat – fishermen from Gozo out with their nets. They were very suspicious of us and stood off at a safe distance. For about half an hour we talked to them, telling them we were RAF, English from Malta, Air Force from Luqa etc. They argued long and loud about us, until finally our uniform wings and stripes convinced them and they took us aboard and set off for Gozo with the dinghy in tow.

“What a sorry sight we all looked. Bill had been cut rather badly, all you could see was two eyes looking out though a mass of congealed blood. Nick too had received a cutover his lefteye and had blood everywhere. We were all cold and shivering like mad. However we settled down amongst dry canvas, sails and bags and started to tell the Gozo boys what had happened. It was tough going but I think they got the general idea of what we had been up to.

“We came ashore after about an hour at a village called Xlendi, and everyone swarmed down to the wharf to see us in. They talked plenty and fast about us but I didn’t get a word of it. Fortunately the local policeman and publican could speak English, so we gave them the gen and off we went to the hotel. We had a tot of whisky and did that ever warm the cockles of my heart. Then we changed into some dry clothes – gee but it was great to be back in civvy clothes again. Bill and Nick looked pretty shaken – bed for them.

“They had hot bovril ready for us in no time. Talk about hospitality, they couldn’t do enough for us. After half an hour the local chief of police arrived. He took all the particulars, then went off to the phone while we had breakfast. Fried fresh fish and chips with bread and butter – I was in like a Sydney burglar. There’s nothing like an early morning dip for an appetite. After breakfast I was feeling pretty good again and ready for some sleep.”

Here was a Wellington engine failure with a fortunate outcome for its crew. I will post a third and final instalment in the next day or two, a postscript with some acknowledgements.