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Test flying the Winjeel in 1951

Old 14th Dec 2020, 12:27
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Test flying the Winjeel in 1951

With several Winjeels on the Australian civil aircraft register I thought their owners/operators would be interested in reading about the initial spinning trials that took place in 1951 before the aircraft was cleared for RAAF service. Having flown the Winjeel as a RAAF QFI in the 1950's, I have enjoyed reading a fine book "Testing Time" by test pilot John Miles, borrowed from the Civil Aviation Historical Society museum at Essendon. The book was first published in 1979.
Here is an extract:

"We then commenced aerobatic and spinning trials. The only trouble encountered was with spinning. The Winjeel spin was in many respects similar to that of the Meteor 7 which I had some experience with at Farnborough in 1950. The first few turns were like a series of nose down (about 45 degrees) flick rolls. Over a number of flights we gradually increased the number of spin turns. After two or three flights it was decided to allow the aircraft to spin for eight turns. After five turns the aircraft spin became very steep, nose down accompanied with an alternating yaw. Recovery was difficult.

Normal spin recovery is effected by a stick forward movement and centralising of the rudder. With the Winjeel though, the elevator had locked in the up position (the stick back), and some 200 lbs stick force was required to obtain forward movement. Jim Wilson and I between us managed to break the elevator lock and after spinning from 16,000 feet, regained flight at about 1,400 feet. The stick force indicator failed to operate at over 200 lbs forward pressure mark. All other aerobabtic trials were satisfactory; loops, half rolls off the top, half rolls with dive recovery, slow rolls, hesitation rolls with relative high speed 140 knots at entry, etc.

Later spin trials proved that relatively easy recovery from the spinning attitude would be comfortably effected by initial use of anti-spin aileon control. C.A.C. effected modifications to the tail control surfaces. In the end, all rudder and elevator problems were solved and the Winjeel became a very fine training aircraft. It served the RAAF well, being used as its elementary trainer for some 25 years."
............................................................ ............................................................ .........................

I first flew the Winjeel at RAAF Central Flying School, East Sale on 8 December 1955 with Flight Lieutenant Randy Green, a CFS instructor. That aircraft was A85-404. We did spins, aerobatics and circuits. That same day I flew A85-404 with Flight Sergeant Ron Bastin on mutual practice and the next day two more Winjeel flights this time with Flying Officer Dal Oswald and Flying Officer Bob Baddams. December 1955 was a busy time for me at CFS when I flew the Wirraway, Winjeel, Lincoln, Mustang and single seat Vampire Mk 31. In later years Randy Green became a test pilot and he and I remained friends for many years.after we had both left the RAAF.

Eight turn spins were the norm when training student pilots on the Winjeel. Entry was at 8000 feet with crossed controls - rudder in the desired direction of spin and anti-spin aileron. A stable spin ensued and recovey after eight turns was normal. Failure to use anti-spin aileron at spin entry caused the Winjeel to enter a steep spiral dive instead of a low speed spin.

In October 1956 a Winjeel crashed at Canberra. The instructor was Flying Officer Jack Mcarthy a very popular flying instructor from RAAF No 1 Basic Flying Training School based at Uranquinty NSW. The Court of Inquiry was unable to find the cause of the accident although it was speculated he may have been practicing spin recoveries in cloud with another pilot based at Canberra. There was an aerodrome height difference of some 1200 feet between Canberra and Uranquinty which may have been a contributory factor. An RAF test pilot, Flight Lieutenant Sutherland from the RAAF Aircraft Research & Development Unit (ARDU) at Laverton, flew to Uranquinty to flight test all Winjeels for their spin characteristics in case there was a "rogue" spinner among them. Each Winjeel was spun eight times to the left and eight turns to the right . No abnormal spinning characteristics were found. I accompanied the test pilot on two of these flights. Some student pilots were quite apprehensive of spinning in the Winjeel. This was to be expected as eight turns could cause disorientation. Eventually with more time on type their apprehension soon faded.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 22:16
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Thanks for that, Centaurus. I was on the 3rd last Winjeel course and there is no doubt that it was a better trainer than the CT4 that replaced it.

Amongst the numerous aircraft that were used for apprentice training at RSTT, RAAF Wagga in the 1970’s was a prototype Winjeel which had the vertical tailplane mounted further aft. The CAC changes to tail control surfaces to improve spin handling characteristics was obviously the reason why the production aircraft had the vertical tailplane mounted further forward.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 22:23
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The prototype required moving the fin/rudder forward to achieve satisfactory spin qualities. Photos of the prototype before and after mod.



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Old 14th Dec 2020, 23:36
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Very interesting thread!, was the reason the tail was moved forward due to the aggressive spin? as I have read elsewhere it made it almost impossible to spin (the CA22)
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 23:37
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Originally Posted by Centaurus View Post
Having flown the Winjeel as a RAAF QFI in the 1950's, I have enjoyed reading a fine book "Testing Time" by test pilot John Miles, borrowed from the Civil Aviation Historical Society museum at Essendon. The book was first published in 1979.
A great book, I see that my copy was signed by the author.

Originally Posted by Centaurus View Post
C.A.C. effected modifications to the tail control surfaces.
Henry Millicer told us that he came up with the revised tail design after CAC sought his advice. Henry had worked at Percival on the design of the piston Provost so compare the tails Percival Provost - Wikipedia

Interesting also to compare the Provost with the Airtourer overall.
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Old 16th Dec 2020, 01:47
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Centaurus and Co.
Could you send all this over to the GA/ Pvt thread...Winjeel flyers should be very interested.
As I was ...! on endorsement..never a mention of spin chararacteristics
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Old 16th Dec 2020, 10:02
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I wonder when the acronym for the Winjeel pre-takeoff vital actions was thought up?

"Try tickling Mary's poor fanny for she is having hairy c**** trouble"
Trims - elevator neutral, rudder 5 deg right; Throttle, friction set; Mixture - full rich; Prop - full increase; Flaps - takeoff; Fuel - selector ON, check contents, boost pump on, check pressure; Switches - as required; Ignition - mags both; Hatches - closed and locked; Harness - locked and tight; Controls - full and free; Throttle - open to full.

First learned in 1969, still burned into the brain. Wish I could remember where I put that new knife sharpener...
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Old 16th Dec 2020, 10:25
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Thanks for another good story, Centaurus. A minor point but I think you'll find that crash that killed Jack McCarthy was in September '56.

Separately, any insights into the 1988 crash at Williamtown that killed Paul Carter and the young bloke he'd taken up for a ride?
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Old 16th Dec 2020, 13:03
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One of the most amazing sights I witnessed as a QFI was at RAAF Base Uranquinty in 1956. There had been a couple of fires in the engines of Winjeels that occurred while the aircraft were inverted with negative "G" during slow rolls. I can't remember the technical details because it was a long time ago. If a fire occurred students were instructed to turn off the fuel cock and the fire would go out. Meanwhile a directive to all pilots stated that until the defect could be rectified all aerobatics were to be conducted over the aerodrome and if a fire occurred the aerodrome was in gliding distance for a forced landing. Now the following description of events will sound implausible but in the meantime take my word for it.

I was having coffee in the air traffic control van situated mid field when a Mayday call was heard by the instructors sitting in deck chairs at the van known as the Pie Cart. . We all looked up and saw a Winjeel flying overhead trailing a thin trail of smoke. The student flying the aircraft was Trainee Pilot Paul Colbey of No 27 Pilots course. He was flying solo having been authorised for an aerobatics sortie over the field by his instructor Flying Officer Tom Larkey. Colbey announced he was on fire and was baling out. Tom leapt to his feet and grabbing the microphone in the ATC van, told Colbey to turn off the fuel cock. It is probable that Colby had already done that as the smoke trail stopped almost immediately.

The next we saw was a small dot leaving the Winjeel which by now appeared to be in a stable glide. We watched the dot fall until a parachute opened at about 1000 ft and disappeared from view behind a small wood about a mile from the airfield. Colbey had baled out leaving the Winjeel to fly itself solo. He had baled out about 3000 feet. He must have trimmed for the glide because the Winjeel began a lazy circle while descending. Those of us at the Pie Cart were concerned the Winjeel might crash somewhere on the airfield and we prepared to run away from the final direction of the gliding Winjeel. The problem being we hadn't a clue where the Winjeel would prang.
We could see the Winjeel gliding in the direction of the village of Uranquinty situated half a mile from the airfield. Soon after, the Winjeel still gliding at a gentle angle nosed into the back yard of someone's house in the village. There was a flash of flame at impact but the flame extinguished itself in a few seconds.

We grabbed a jeep and raced to Uranquinty village expecting to find chaos. We found the Winjeel in the backyard with no fire visible and no one hurt much to our relief. Now this is where I must be careful not to embellish the story because I am relying on my personal recollection of an event of 64 years ago. My recollection was the Winjeel was on its nose, not badly damaged apart from scorch marks and amazingly with the canopy intact.

Meanwhile Trainee Pilot Colbey had landed safely under his parachute and had been picked up and taken to the unit hospital. He was asked how he managed to bale out without first jettisoning the Winjeel canopy? I wasn't there when he was interrogated so the following is my understanding of what he told them. He said smoke had appeared in the cockpit while he was doing aerobatics. He turned off the fuel cock but smoke was still there so he decided to abandon ship. First he tried to jettison the canopy by pulling the jettison handle situated between and slightly behind the two pilots seats. He was a short person and found himself unable to reach the jettison handle as he had to reach backwards to grasp and pull. He stated he then unstrapped himself from the left hand seat and squeezed across to the right hand seat from where he was able to raise his legs and kick out the left pilot seat sliding window. He got out through that window.

Now this is where my recollection could be in doubt but I am certain that next day Colbey was asked to demonstrate his bale out action by putting him into a Winjeel (on the ground of course) and replay how he kicked out the sliding window as climbed out in all his gear and parachute strapped to his bum. I understand he was unable to replicate how he got out. I can understand that as the sliding window is very small and almost impossible to imagine a child going through that small space let alone a pilot with a parachute attached.

Certainly I could not recall a canopy falling from the Winjeel during the period before he was seen to bale out. One of these days I would like to read the official Court of Inquiry of that accident and compare my recollections to the facts.. If anyone reading this acount could tell me how I could find the accident investigation report please let me know as the story sounds so implausible. I believe Paul Colbey eventually joined TAA and was entitled to wear the "caterpillar" badge as someone who saved their life by using their parachute.
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Old 16th Dec 2020, 23:57
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Centaurus,

My father, Ian Reese, joined No.1 B.F.T.S. at Uranquinty in April 1956, starting in Winjeels. Instructors in his log book include Turner, Green, Josselyn, Cramp, Hindley, Fookes, Newham, Mann, McCarthy, Larkey, Weymouth, Price, and Wing Commander Bolitho. My father has now slipped the surly bonds of Earth, so any stories you have of those times would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers,

Nick Reese
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Old 17th Dec 2020, 00:42
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any insights into the 1988 crash at Williamtown that killed Paul Carter
The only info to be gleaned is loss of control during a PFL. Pity our military doesn't make available accident reports.
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Old 1st Feb 2021, 11:25
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One of these days I would like to read the official Court of Inquiry of that accident and compare my recollections to the facts..
I contacted the Australian National Archives - paid them $35 - and today they sent me the digital version of the Court of Inquiry.
Edited in some parts for brevity. The pilot was Trainee Pilot Paul Colbey. Date of incident 13 November 1956.
His report:

I was authorised to carry out solo aerobatics in Winjeel A85-425. Clmbing to 7000 feet I did a pre-aerobatic check. I commenced a slow roll and as the aircraft went on to its back the engine cut out. I continued to roll out. As I did so, I noticed the engine seemed to rev excessively. The boost gauge showed a reading of 26 inches and the revs were approximately 2,800. I immediately throttled back and noted the reading of the rev gauge at closed throttle was 1600 revs.

I then placed the pitch full fine and moved the throttle slowly forward. At 1600 inches of boost the revs unaccountably raced up to 2800 rpm. I closed the throttle, selected full coarse pitch and radiod the control tower that my CSU was malfunctioning and I would attempt to glide back to the aerodrome and forced land. I turned towards the aerodrome, put the aircraft in the glide attitude and noted the time as 1545 hours. After some ten seconds I thought I saw smoke issuing from the port cowl. On further investigation, I noticed thick black smoke issuing from the air hole in the port cowl.

Deciding the engine was on fire, I selected fuel off, switches, throttle and mixture contol to the off positions. While still attempting to glide back to the aerodrome , the cabin became filled with very dense acrid blue smoke. I immediately switched all electrical switches off, but as the smoke made it extremely difficult to see and breathe, I decided to abandon the aircraft. I radiod my intentions to the tower saying my engine was on fire and that I intended to bale out. I reached for the canopy jettison lever but as my straps were too tight I could not reach it. Then I attempted to unlock the canopy and slide it back. This effort also proved futile.

I think I must have panicked for I undid the straps and kicked the port windows out. As I left the aircraft I switched the rudder trim to full right rudder in an attempt to make the aircraft glide away from Uranquinty. The length of time after leaving the aircraft and before pulling the rip-chord must have been about 7 or 8 seconds, for I can remember hitting the wing and rolling off. I made a normal parachute descent, landing in a field about 300 yards from the main railway line. I was picked up by a RAAF utility and brought to Uranquinty hospital and held for observation.

Question by Court of Inquiry: Did you notice your fire warning light come on?

Answer: Well, not that I noticed. As soon as I saw the smoke issuing from the cowl I put my head back into the cockpit and it was then that I noticed the cockpit was full of smoke and I could hardly see any instruments.

Question: What was your difficulty in opening the canopy in the normal way?

Answer: I found it very hard to get my arm between the seat and the port side of the aircraft in such a position as to push the canopy lever to the fully free position.

Question: When you could not reach the canopy jettison lever because your harness was too tight, did it occur to you to operate your harness release box?

Answer: No. When I decided to bale out I immediately undid my harness using the actual release box. At the time I felt as though I might choke to death with the smoke and panicking, I forgot the jettison handle and the panel jettison handle.

Question: Did you have any difficulty in leaving the aircraft through the side windows?

Answer: Yes. Even though I am small in stature, as I forced my way through the opening, the parachute release box caught in the bottom of the canopy frame. I put my hand against the framework and succeeded in pushing myself clear.

Question: Have you experienced propeller over-speeding before?

Answer: Yes on 27 September of this year in Winjeel A85-423 while flying with Flying Officer Larkey. A forced landing was carried out on Belfreyden satellite aerodrome.


Note: Trainee Pilot Colbey's log book showed his total flying experience was 32 hours of which 21 hours were dual and ten hours solo. All his flying time was on Winjeel aircraft.

The accident was caused by a fire in the engine compartment of the aircraft while it was airborne. The cause of the fire was traced to the dislodgement of the carburettor float fulcrum pin which caused flooding of the carburettor and fuel leakage. This excess fuel became ignited in some way. The cause of the accident can be traced to negligence by persons unknown during the re-conditioning of the carburettor carried out in the USA in that the carburettor float fulcrum pin was not lock wired. The absence of lock wiring should have been noticed during the course of the eight "C" Servicings the aircraft had undergone at No 1 BFTS.

Final remarks by Centaurus. The account of this accident was broadly how I recalled it in the earlier post. The difference being how Colbey was able to exit the aircraft. It was assumed he had kicked out the small sliding window on his side of the aircraft. In fact he was able to kick out not only the sliding window but another window adjacent to the sliding window. Being a shortie has its advantages when escaping from a burning aircraft. Kicking out the second window made a gap wide enough for him to dive through, hitting the port wing on his way out and rolling off into space. Photos of the crashed Winjeel showed the canopy still in place.

For a young student pilot with only 32 hours of total flying time, Colbey kept his wits together and even had the presence of mind to not only trim the aircraft for the glide, but to trim full right rudder in the hope the aircraft would turn away from Uranquinty airfield and the close by village of Uranquinty.
There were several witnesses including me that saw the Winjeel glide in a circle but through nearly 360 degrees before impacting in the back garden of a house in the village causing minor damage to a chook yard with no casualties among people or chooks. Later the RAAF sent a working party to mend several fences. A good show by Trainee Pilot Paul Colbey.

Last edited by Centaurus; 1st Feb 2021 at 12:03.
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