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Historic Aviation => Air War => Topic started by: admin on December 09, 2008, 01:36:25 AM



Title: Spitfire victims of the weather
Post by: admin on December 09, 2008, 01:36:25 AM
I'm trying to assemble a representative list of Spitfire accidents where entire formations of aircraft got into trouble due to extreme weather conditions.
I have managed to identify three such cases so far, but I'd like to find out more!

1. No. 133 (Eagle) Squadron mission to Morlaix of 26 September 1942, involving the entire squadron on Spitfires Mk. IX. Flying over the complete cloud cover throughout the mission, the pilots didn't notice the presence of extreme high-altitude wind (jetstream?). Expecting to land back in Cornwall on their return route, the formation found itself over Brest, where 10 Spitfires were shot down by flak.

2. An accident of 15 March 1942 involving No. 317 (Polish) Squadron. Returning from an escort to five bombers over the French coast in search of shipping, the formation descended into 10/10 cloud which stretched down to 200 feet. The cloud made it impossible to land at their own base, nor at the alternative landing grounds. The visibility became so bad that the aircraft lost sight of each other in the cloud. In fact one pilot F/O Koc with the aid of instruments flew over the aerodrome at 20 feet but was still unable to see it. 10 out of 12 aircraft crash-landed in the vicinity of Bolthead, one pilot killed.

3. The third case, attributed by some to the weather, is the well-known 2 May 1943 interception mission of No. 1 wing RAAF in the Darwin area. The Japanese force counted some of 18 G4M bombers and 26 A6M Zeros. Some 33 Spitfires were scrambled, 5 having to abandon early due to technical failures - a constant plague of Spitfire operations in the area. During combat, five Spitfires were shot down. On the return leg of the mission, eight Spitfires were forced to land through engine failure or shortage of fuel. The official communiques of the time blamed high winds for the aircraft not reaching their base, but contemporary researchers tend to agree that the wind phenomenon was invented for propaganda purposes to rationalize the scale of own losses in that mission.

As can be seen, blame could be put on the weather for other reasons, which makes the whole subject even more interesting. So, any similar stories would be greatly appreciated!

/Martin


Title: Re: Spitfire victims of the weather
Post by: JamesF on April 30, 2011, 10:49:39 AM
In Afred Price's "Spitfire a Complete Fighting History"  WNGCDR Hank Costain MBE relates how in the Summer of 1944, his unit 615 Sqn took of from from Palel on the Imphal plain in India to pull out of the front line for a rest.  They had been based there on operations against attempted Japanese invasion of India.  They departed with 16 Spifire MkVIIIs.  On the let down at destination, they were confronted with a thick dust laiden storm cloud down to ground level. They ended up entering the cloud.  Costain relates things almost instantly went haywire.  He basically lost control of the aircraft, the stick was attempting to wrench itself out his grasp and the instruments were unreadable.  He had no idea of his attitude and was smashed by an updraft to 10 000 Ft, then plunged into a downdraft. Huge hailstones drumming on the airframe drowned out the sound of the engine!  When still going down and seeing 1000 Ft on the altimeter, he decided a silk let down was called for.  After first struggling to jettison the hood and then get free of the aircraft, he eventually tumbled down along the fuselage, striking the tail and breaking his leg.  As the tail disapeared into the gloom, he pulled the D ring, and the chute opened just in time.  Landing with a broken leg.....Terrifying experience!  In 5 Minutes 615 had lost it's CO and 3 other pilots killed and 3 injured.  8 of the 16 aircraft were lost, all without the Japs firing a shot!   


Title: Re: Spitfire victims of the weather
Post by: Editor on June 01, 2011, 10:31:12 AM
In Afred Price's "Spitfire a Complete Fighting History"  WNGCDR Hank Costain MBE relates how in the Summer of 1944, his unit 615 Sqn took of from from Palel on the Imphal plain in India to pull out of the front line for a rest.  They had been based there on operations against attempted Japanese invasion of India.  They departed with 16 Spifire MkVIIIs.  On the let down at destination, they were confronted with a thick dust laiden storm cloud down to ground level. They ended up entering the cloud.  Costain relates things almost instantly went haywire.  He basically lost control of the aircraft, the stick was attempting to wrench itself out his grasp and the instruments were unreadable.  He had no idea of his attitude and was smashed by an updraft to 10 000 Ft, then plunged into a downdraft. Huge hailstones drumming on the airframe drowned out the sound of the engine!  When still going down and seeing 1000 Ft on the altimeter, he decided a silk let down was called for.  After first struggling to jettison the hood and then get free of the aircraft, he eventually tumbled down along the fuselage, striking the tail and breaking his leg.  As the tail disapeared into the gloom, he pulled the D ring, and the chute opened just in time.  Landing with a broken leg.....Terrifying experience!  In 5 Minutes 615 had lost it's CO and 3 other pilots killed and 3 injured.  8 of the 16 aircraft were lost, all without the Japs firing a shot!   

This is EXCATLY the kind of story I was looking for! Thank you so much for sharing.
/Martin


Title: Re: Spitfire victims of the weather
Post by: JamesF on June 06, 2011, 11:15:59 AM
Another take on weather....The Spitfire Mk24, re-built in the mid 70's (?) by Jack Mullock, in what was Rhodesia, (re-build of an ex Rhodesian Air Force Spitfire Mk24), was thought to have been lost due weather.  Jack was flying it on an air to air picture shoot, when he flew into heavy cumulus cloud.  No one knows for sure what happened, but he lost control sand dived out the cloud and impacted terrain.  He was quite old at the time, so some thought he may have had a medical issue, or some thought rough turbulence caused incapacitation.  Very sad end to two old war horses.  RhodAF Spitfire24's were retired due to shrinkage of the wooden prop blades in the African climate, which made the attachment of the blades to the prop hub unsafe.  Avoiding the politics, a pity as I'm sure the Rhodies would have put them to good use, and probably would have been the last operational Spitfire pilots in the world??!!