P-51 Engine Out, Off-Airport Landing - full analysis
P 51 Engine Failure and Crash Landing at an Airshow

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British warbird pilot, Mark Levy, was part of a 21-airplane formation in the annual airshow at Duxford, England when the P-51 he was flying had a partial engine out. Levy recorded the entire event on a pair of point-of-view video cameras, and he shared the images, as well as his lessons learned, in a candid discussion with Richard McSpadden, Executive Director of the AOPA Air Safety Institute. Read more in our featured article: https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/may/17/inside-a-p-51-engine-out-off-airport-landing

Comments

zap2002 : Great piece of advice for owner-pilots like myself. The airplane has let you down. Don't try to save it. Save yourself.

oldshumi : From the canopy camera angle I thought that he crashed really hard and probably rollover. But from helmet camera it looked pretty good Great job! Glad that pilot walked away

Donald Parlett jr : That is the truest comment "fly the airplane to the end"

Robin White : Excellent discussion. My rule for an emergency landing is "No gear until the landing is assured." I don't care who is saying what in my headset. And you're totally correct: an intermittent failure is much harder to deal with. Your analytical, problem-solving side is having a tug of war with your natural instincts for hope. I had that happen (and interestingly enough, in my Navion), when I had an inflight engine failure at altitude over Connecticut. One moment everything was humming along. The next, sputtering, vibration, then silence. The engine had been newly overhauled (so of course it must be water in the fuel, right?). I traded airspeed for altitude until I hit best glide (90 MPH in the Navion at my weight), switched tanks (no change), hit the boost pump (no change), made sure the magnetos were on both (no change), then gave up and started downhill in the direction of the nearest airport (which I could see). Then, the engine restarted. Hope reared its head as I clawed back the altitude I'd lost. Water in the fuel after all! I turned away from the nearest airport towards my destination, just forty miles away. A few minutes later, it happened again. Rinse and repeat. I flew a sinusoidal, up and down wave pattern all the way home, passing many good landing options along the way. The engine running fine, then quitting. Running fine, then quitting. I landed at my home field (BAF), taxied to the FBO and the mechanic I knew would be on duty there., and shut down. He determined I had only one functioning cylinder (out of six), that the rings were coked with burned oil, and that oil getting by the stuck rings was shorting out the plugs, causing the engine to die. When the plugs dried a bit, the engine would relight. But there was no denying my newly-overhauled engine had cooked itself near to death. It turned out the overhaul facility in southern Ohio (since gone out of business) had not reinstalled my intercylinder cooling baffles, causing wonky airflow and overheating. There is no doubt I should have landed early and not pressed on for home. It was not "water in the fuel". Serious problems do not fix themselves. In other words, I was not smart. But I was lucky.

FlightChops : So much to learn from this one! Thanks for sharing!

niftertube : I keep hearing "In a perfect world." From what I saw from this crash video we just might be getting close. If the pilot had tried to make the runway this would have been big news. "Dont make your emergency somone else's emergency." Words to live by.

Lingenfelter Zee Ohh Six : Our military has had the most bad ass pilots throughout history!! My grandfather was a P-51 pilot in ww2 providing support /protection for our B17's heading to and from their bombing missions, flew his first mission at 20 years old with nearly no experience and ended up receiving a medal for his actions that mission. for dropping back from the group on the return with another p51 to protect a badly damaged b17 with an engine failing FAR behind its group and slowly loosing altitude and fuel doomed to end up in the thick Forrest below . The other p51s radio wasn't working and as my grandfather had moved in close to the nose of the b17 to make eye contact with the crew and hopefully give them some sort of calm for a moment as they approached the most common Luftwaffe assault airspace he looked up and the other p51 was nowhere in site , he eased away looking for it knowing the pilot must have seen German fighters and spotted 2 in acrobatics way above them . He climbed to help keep them off the sitting and wounded duck B-17 spending what he said felt like hours of cat and mouse as they continued to try to get shots off on the B-17 even tho it was clearly in trouble and not going to make it. My grandfather in all the dogfighting looked down at his fuel gauge and it read nearly empty with a long ways to go and still well over enemy territory if he needed to bail. He said he knew he had 2 options, continue providing cover for the B17 hopefully fending off the 2 Luftwaffe and surely end up bailing out into German territory , OR abonadon covering the wounded B17 that was surely going down shortly and try to save the p51 and his life for another her day. Sure many pilots in other places of the world would have left to try and save the P51, himself and knwoing the B17 was most likely a lost cause but he said he couldn't leave it and it's crew to be shot down by the Luftwaffe that would surely pounce as soon as he left. He found out the other P51 also was having fuel issues from the long dogfight and with no radio he peeled off to return to the group ahead and left my grandfather . My grandfather a Young American Pilot from Idaho in a plane with virtually no fuel surely to end up a POW if not killed by the 2 Luftwaffe ,stayed and continued trying to protect the B17. One of the Luftwaffe made a good hit obliterating a machine gun turret and the gunner and my grandfather in his own words said "I was mad as hell and going to kill that son of a bitch!" He broke off and after that specific German with the other behind him. Moments later he had a good shot at a diagonal like angle and fired , it sheared JUsT the glass canopy off along with the pilots head , no other damage . The other German behind him immidately cowered and turned back even being behind my grandfather . He said the unmanned German fighter just glided smoothly and in seeming slow motion earlilly with no pilot and perfectly level somehow. He was going to finish it off and had the thought as he realized it was headed directly back in the direction of the bombing target , that he'd leave it be and with any luck it'd continue and loose altitude putting it in Hitler's bunker! Lol he always told the part with a grumpy smirk on his face. He left the ghost fighter and returned to the B-17s side. I always have imagined what a reassurance it must have been to them falling far behind their group in a doomed bomber , to see 2 p51's come and cover them and in the end a single one destroying one and scaring the other off returning to their side like he chased off the wolves. He looked at his gauge and it read empty , he knew he'd need to get ready to bail when right then he heard the b17 smoking engine sputter and stop and a sudden drop in altitude . He dropped with it in desperation completely helpless and unable to do anything. He said he got as close to the crews glass to wish them luck and the pilot salute him and began to drop. He used to tell us he'd still at 88 years old wake up drenched in bed seeing the wounded b17 slowly drop to the thick Forrest below and the helpless feeling he had and the anger for the Nazis for putting them there. It dropped down and found a slight clearing ahead but my grandfather knew he didn't have the altitude or speed to make it. It went into the trees and a fireball below . My grandpa never showed emotion ever but everytime he told that story he'd get choked up and seem to zone out for a minute like he was seeing it right then. He looked back at his gauge in amazement that he still hadn't lost power and caught up to his group and let them know he was long out of fuel and would be bailing shortly and to let his superiors know the location when he jumped. He said a God given miracle happened that flight , the P51 Jsut kept going and going, until they got near the airstrip . As he decend with an about out of fuel B17 to approach, he said "I thoght hell, the damn gage must be broke! And sure enough as I said that , that son of bitch died!" Lol. He was short of the runway. But put it ina field with no damage saving the P51 and receiving a medal that sits in my moms house still today for his actions that day. My grandfather had one sibling, a little brother that was also a pilot. They became orphans when he was 13 years old when his parents passed unexpectedly. His brother was all he had. He never talked about him though, my mom and grandmother said all they ever knew was he was a pilot and he died in the war. 3 weeks before my grandpa died one day he Jsut started talking about Jack (his brother) and we all shut up as no one knew anything about him. He went in to tell the story of how his brother was killed. He was crazy enough also a p51 pilot IN MY GRANDFATHERS SAME SQUADRON! We all looked at each other realizing my grandfather would have been in the sky it sounded like when he was killed. He went on to tel about a b-17 group protection mission they were suppose to go on. His brother was really sick with the flu and my grandfather told him he couldn't go up and to sit it out and rest. He told my grandpa , you aren't going up without me there , I have a bad feeling. As if he was worried about my grandfather. They went up and on the way to the point where they leave the b17's to dontheir drop and wait for the return having got through the typical hot zones with no issue , right then he said more Luftwaffe that he had ever seen came out of nowhere . Saidnitnwas pure hell and chaos! Grandpa said he chased off 2 NOT realizing they bait him and he soon had 2 on his tail . Long story,..long,..he heard a loud pop boom behind him trying to evade the 2 while moving all 4 out and away from the b17's . He looked back and saw one of the Germans in a fireball corkscrewing down with a p51 behind it. The other one peeled and dove and he turned to get back to the group realizing as the p51 came to his side that it was Jack that saved his life. On the radio he said jack said "told ya had a bad feelin! You always protected me in school and I finally got to return it!" They continued on B lining to the battle group when out of nowhere he heard his brother yell "ARTHUR!!!!" (My grandpas name ) over the radio and as he looked down and back for Jack it was being lit up at the moment by a German . He said before I could say his name it burst into flames and I watched jacks P51 disappear into the clouds with not a damn thing I could do about it!" He stopped talking and tears pouring out his eyes , and everyone else's that had never heard that. To think ALL those years hat he never talked of it and we wondered why, was becaue he saw him shot down after being saved by him. Can't imagine how it must have affected his life. Then he said "they said I could take a few days off but Jack was all I had and I was going to spend every day I had left killing as many of those sons of bitches as I could and bringing home as many of my brothers,.. so , I went back up the next mission and every one after that I could until the war ended. And to think now jacks siting with my sweetheart waiting for me to come say thanks for giving me a full life of joy." My grandma died 3 months before in a tragic accident and it broke his heart. He passed away 3 weeks later after I found him after a fall with his head bleeding badly. His brain hemoraged and he passed. I was extremely close to them and have an airforce bracelet he wore in every mission sitting on night stand . These are the types of pilots and brave military we have! Today's pilots , the p51 and b17 pilots in ww2 and all the rest are the heroes that we owe everything too! Sorry for the random story, today's the anniversary of when he passed and he's on my mind so watching p51 videos and hours of the motor cutting! And knowing this happened to my grandfather in ww2 ! I was meant to see this! Thanks for the post!!

steveo1kinevo : With having to make a decision I think it would be easier to have a complete engine failure.

Ace Pilto : If the engine fails, the plane belongs to the insurance company!

Vilber : Fantastic learning experience. This video should mandatory for every student before they can go solo...

0xfff0 : What a great story, hell of a call to turn away from the airport when you're THAT close to the runway, 10/10 I would've stalled my ass onto the crowd just short of field

Graham Aindow : We saw him very low on downwind, with flaps down, but no gear...and no power from the engine. I guessed he was gliding as he had not put the gear down due to the extra drag. I presumed he was going to put it down the other side of the M11. However, he banked steeply, put the gear down, which seemed to be dangling down but not locked. He was trying to line up with the runway, but realised he was too low and not going to make the necessary turn. He was now heading straight at all us spectators on the east pan near the ARC hangars. I just remember thinking...this is not going to end well! The pilot then did an incredibly brave thing. He banked very steeply to the right, so as not to hit the motorway or us spectators. Now, I'm not a pilot, but I have got a lot of hours in the back seats of Harvards, when my friends had them some years ago. I know enough to know that low, slow, with no engine, in a heavy lump like a P-51 does not allow for steep turns. The pilot was sacrificing himself to save all of us. He disappeared behind the ARC hangars and we all waited for the fireball. Thankfully there was no plume of smoke. Total silence from the spectators. A lot of very concerned faces. Then the announcement...'The pilot is out of the airplane and safe'. A HUGE cheer and round of applause from thousands of us spectators. Mark Levy deserves a case of beer from every spectator on that pan.

Josip Vrandecic : Without dramatization and waving hands, without raising the voice, it was useful to listen two smart people .... because after this interview , and I feel ''important and clever''.Thanks so much to Air Safety Institute.

Gforce237 : 27:37 That stiff neck didn't come from the yaw, it came from the 300lb canopy doing a hand spring off the back of your head. 2:32

Frank Anzalone : Can we get an update when we find out why the engine died

/M0ther_bra1ned/ : This is probably the most amazing thing I've ever watched on Youtube. A professional pilot, making life or death, spur of the moment decisions, and landing a P-51 on its belly in a field!

CZ Period : This is amazing, terrifying, and exceptionally instructive. I have read many accident reports where the pilot loses an engine, turns for landing on the paved runway, perhaps tries to stay up a little longer, stalls a wing in the turn, and goes into the ground like a lawn dart. In this case at 13:12 the airfield looks like a warm friend, sitting there like a tempting oasis of happy. All he had to do was pull back just a little bit and he would so clear that highway, do a nice little landing, and exit the cockpit to the cheers of thousands of fans. Except no, that was an illusion. The reality would be a stall/spin right into the field with a possible skid of bouncing wreckage into the highway. Even after his going level (with the resultant increase in lift over a turn) he had only a few seconds left before pancaking it into the field. Which was the right move. I hope I can remember this video if I am ever in this situation and realize the illusion of making the airfield that's *right. over. there* Thank you for posting this.

ultrabaiter : Had to happen low and slow!...in a plane that isnt renowned for its abilities as a glider! (Scary...really well stuck in the end)

Gareth Williams : Great video and analysis! I had a partial engine failure on takeoff on Labor Day last year. Off airport landing in the dry river bed adjacent to the runway. FLY THE AIRPLANE as far into the crash as you can. I managed a perfect point landing (vs stall & spin). But I was in a Stearman, so couldn’t retract the gear :-). Nosed over on impact - no way to avoid that with all the brush and bamboo acting like the arrester wire on an aircraft carrier! Word to the wise...get as slow as possible...crash impact varies as the square of the speed. My big learning...landing upwind (I could have) at 40 mph would have been far preferable to downwind (at 70 mph). I’d still have nosed over and ended up hanging on the straps...but maybe I wouldn’t have broken my back! And for all the armchair critics out there who haven’t been through an engine failure...notice just how quickly everything happens in that last 20 seconds. The ground rushing up at you is scary...made the hairs on the back of my head stand up watching this. Since my engine failure was at 250ft into climb out, I estimate 20 seconds was all I had start-to-finish. Reactions have to instinctive and decisive...there’s no time to think and figure things out! I’m a fellow Brit who used to live near Duxford, by the way...proud of my fellow countryman!

Mark Hatch : Fantastic interview guys...thanks. Glad you made it down, superb handling of the P-51

Sabeillard x : What a great video! Tons of useful and clever information to all pilots. Thanks for sharing! Glad you made it! Congrats from Portugal!

Stone Hobson : I wish videos like this were available 40 years ago. These are the answers to what one should do when a difficult situation arises in the air. Much more informative than stories told sitting around the flight club. You're right there watching his reactions to the situation. I'll never forget some of those stories, though. Thanks for posting. All around life saving information on an engine-out situation.

Paul Dalley : So glad he DIDN'T try for that turn from base onto final and the runway. As I was watching that I was thinking - dont push it dude, get it down, dont push it dude, get it down. He so made the right decession in NOT trying to reach the airport (and crossing over the car traffic) and instead landing in the field. My heart was in my mouth when I saw the runway from that base angle. So glad he accepted the situation he was in and dealt with it as it was and not as he wanted it to be. "Three's down and safe". Well done that man!

FDGREBEL : I was at Flying Legends, didn't really see it. I was looking at the other aircraft. But there was a noticeable thump which suddenly caught everyone's attention. I was at that end of the tarmac so was probably 300 yards from the crash site. These guys fly so professionally, most of the time you have no idea as an observer on the ground when things are going wrong.

Brian A : A gold mine of great info. Thank you! I'm passing this on to my instructor and the aero club.

Johny2bikes : Such a calm and collective personality. Great video.

Neil Martin : Well done, great decision to abort the final and turn away from motorway.

Corazon del Oro : Carry a handheld radio in your flight suit; if you must bail or ditch, even if the plane's comm is disabled (as in this crash), you still have contact with ATC, rescuers, etc. Thanks to both of you for sharing. Happy landings!

wert freund : Mark Levy surely should not be disappointed to much! He did an outstanding job impov. He showed he could keep his synapsis together and actively deal with a intermitting engine which plus radio is -as he said himself- putting You in huuughe and way more workload than a strict engine shut down. Plus It's one thing to teach others when You got all synapsis together inside Your comfort zone and dealing it while all adrenalin, and noradrenalin is kicking in maneuvering Your body into "attack and/or flee." After all we're still humans not unempathic computers. Again well done sad that nobody pulled those stupid maximum dangerous concrete posts hope those are pulled ALL ba now!!

Alan Grant : I watch youtube every night. I watch aircraft videos often. This video is one of the best pilot interviews and accident discussions that I have ever watched. I pilot a hang glider. Everytime. Thank you for posting this interview.

Iván Ibarra : watching this video is like taking a massive lesson on Human Factors, thanks

David Messer : The best advice is don't worry about bending the airplane. Once it has failed, it's purpose is to be a safety capsule to dissipate energy so you survive. The intermittent power failure reminds me of stories I've heard of engine failures in twin engine airplanes. Losing an engine in a twin can be more dangerous than losing it in a single because the pilot may think that he can make it back to the airport instead of making the best landing he can off field.

David Foreman : Even as a non pilot like myself ( but retired Aircraft Engineer) I found this a great video to watch, and appreciate his skill.

Jeff Van Ark : Was the root cause determined? The video shows a well trained pilot in a stressful situation not chasing a bad decision. I'm glad you're ok. I'm a bit sad to see the bit of history all broken up like that.

hopsyn : “Training the hard stuff!” That’s a very true statement in everything you could do!

Lotophagi : mmm... Easy to criticize. But as a glider pilot with maybe 50 or so forced outlandings the thing that strikes me is that the decision to make a forced landing needs to be made early. Not trying to squeeze it into the home field and begging for "another 100 feet". There looked like plenty of fields where a controlled landing could be made. Make the decision in good time, stick to it, and do a good approach. A good approach into a bad field is better than bad approach into a good field. Go over to the local gliding club (Cambridge for Duxford) and take a field landing exercise ride in a motor glider with an instructor - it may save your life.

Steve Solo : We are happy you chose not to attempt making it over the freeway. Happy to see you climb out intact! Welcome to the survivors club! You will become a better pilot for it. Cheers.

Mark Esterhuizen : Excellent video and a great discussion by two experienced pilots. So much good information in this. Thank you.

ZD433 : Imagine pulling off a forced landing in a P51D with no harm to yourself or others , and the aircraft is subsequently repaired and airworthy again and then getting trolled by a dickhead called ‘Dan Frederiksen’ who isn’t a pilot and bases his experience on time spent on flight sims ?! It’s so fucking hilarious you couldn’t make it up ! 😂😂😂 I bet he’s a Walter Mitty character who is still on a life long quest to get a woman to look at him never mind shag him and squires around in a patch festooned flight jacket pretending to be the leader of The Blue Angels 😂😂😂😂 Thank you ‘Dan Frederiksen’ (assuming that is your name ) your various proclamations and verbal diarrhoea in the comments section about a subject that you ,by your own admission, have no practical knowledge of has provided many hundreds of people with a huge laugh! 😂😂

Marc Phillips : A great honest debrief. Ez to Monday morning QB. Great job. This guy is a real Pro.

Shasta Graff : Excellent advice! Thanks!

Jeb Sails : The saturation point was what I took from this as a non-pilot. I see thae corollary between controlling a piece of machinery in the air and driving a car on the highway. Use of that cellphone on the highways is getting us to the saturation point quicker. Thank you so much for that insight. Narragansett Bay.

Liederlover Van Zandt : Lingenfelter Zee Ohh Six: That riveting story is certainly one of the most unique I've ever read. And the helplessness being near both the doomed bomber (maybe a couple of the crew were too injured..could Not bail out, and so the Aircraft Commander never ordered a bailout?) and his own brother. What a hell of a grandfather and uncle you had! I've read many dozens of detailed descriptions of various sorties/missions of WW2 air combat, but nothing like that. My career was flying twin-engine transports (now retired), and the tactical flexibility required by attack and fighter ops is beyond amazing. Remember the History Channel's "Dogfights", now maybe still on Youtube, where good computer graphics depict the changing flight paths of both the good guys and (former) enemies? Thank you very much for sharing the story!

JP8 8 : It's amazing how he kept the plane from rolling after the turn and gear down. My dad used to tell me any landing you can walk away from is a good one.Glad you are ok , good video.

Nimrod Quimbus : Helmet fires can be a real big problem

Doug Hanchard : Great interview. Good decision making and breakdown of sequence of events. The Merlin / Packard can be problematic with both the carburetor and ignition systems. The fuel pumps are pretty reliable. Very strange engine behavior. There are no indications of a bad cylinder, Magneto misfire, broken valve or supercharger failure. Air in the fuel line, vapour lock, clogged filter, fuel tank blockage do seem unlikely given the gentle turns and level flight envelope flown. Really couldn't ask for more than what Mark Levy explains. Good luck on your return to the cockpit of the P-51. Have a nice flight!

MAGA MAGA : I loved the spitfire and the p51 mustang as a kid the US pilots and the RAF were some bad mother fuckers back then Edit: referring to when these planes were in service during ww2

BigJulie : Does the owner's insurance pay for a guest pilot's crash?

Everyone : After he explained his thought process it made a lot more sense as to what he was doing. I am in no way a pilot but I have a pretty decent understanding of flying to understand after he explained how he processed everything that was going on and his reactions. He did a very good job getting the plane down in a manner where he was able to walk away. The thing that I have going through my head is I have a few family members that were Marine Corps. pilots, one flew transport planes and a couple others were fighter pilots in WWII. All of them had mentioned multiple times that if you're over land and you start having issues with your plane, you make your call out to your flight group, let them know what's going on and start heading back immediately while looking around for possible places to set the plane down. "Whether it was a fluke or user error, you're more useful if you head back to base and live to fight another day instead of risking having to put your plane down in enemy territory." I'm not at all criticizing the pilot in the video because I have no room to be able to. That's just what was running through my head when I first saw the flight footage.