Dave Wilshere was asked to test fly a large four engine bomber with which he had had
no previous dealings. The nervous owner had around him a large group of fellow
modellers with cameras who wished to record the event.
A lengthy engine test run on the ground revealed no apparent defects.
Dave took off and, in line with his maiden flight testing protocol, climbed
for height since more height gives a longer time to recover should a
failure occur. Dave’s protocol demands that, for a maiden flight, the
aircraft must demonstrate that, among other things, the fuel system can
deliver appropriate amounts of fuel to the propulsion system for the duration
of the flight. This test involves remaining at height whilst flying circuits.
Shortly after take-off the assembled group of ‘photographers’ began asking
Dave to fly low level passes so that they could get some ‘great shots’. The
pressure to fly low became intense.
Dave’s experience and discipline allowed him to resist these pressures and
the high level of distraction they were causing and refused to fly at low level.
On the third circuit
both starboard engines
On the third circuit both starboard engines stopped.
With two engines stopped the aircraft was now receiving asymmetric
thrust – i.e. it will turn violently in the direction of the failed engines.
Recovery from this condition requires high speed and counter-intuitive actions.
Three things saved the aircraft:
- Dave had a rigorous protocol for maiden test flights
- He did not deviate from that protocol even when under extreme pressure to do so
- He had the skill and experience to recover the situation and save the asset
The incident would have been avoided if Dave had been consulted earlier in the
project or given time to do a complete review of the aircraft, its systems, construction and components.