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Harvard crash after reduced-power take-off

PUBLISHED: 11:01 23 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:03 10 October 2012

After normal power and pre-departure checks, the pilot of Harvard T-6G began his take-off from Duxford's R06

After normal power and pre-departure checks, the pilot of Harvard T-6G began his take-off from Duxford's R06; the runway surface was dry grass with a take-off run available (TORA) of 890 metres. The pilot used 10¡ of flap as he normally did for a grass runway and noted the surface wind as less than five knots from the north-east.

He selected a reduced power setting of 30 inches MAP and 2,000 rpm for the take-off, to reduce the noise level.

Acceleration was normal but the aircraft ran over a bump in the ground and lifted off at too slow a speed. The pilot put the aircraft back on the ground and continued the acceleration looking for an indicated airspeed of 75 to 80 mph before lift-off. However, the aircraft hit another bump and again lifted off. He could not recall his precise airspeed but the aircraft seemed to be climbing normally.

He selected gear retraction but then felt the aircraft became "sluggish". The aircraft then rolled to the right and the right wingtip contacted the ground; it rotated about the wingtip and came to rest at right angles to the runway.

The two occupants escaped from the aircraft as a fire started in the engine compartment. The AFS were quickly on the scene and extinguished the fire.

Many operators of older, high-powered piston aircraft use reduced power for take-off and the figures as used by this pilot are normal. However, it is also common practice to use full power for the first take-off on each day. On the day of the accident, the pilot had flown in from Earls Colne Airfield and had used full power for his initial take-off. He acknowledges that it would have been more sensible to use full power again for his first take-off that day on the grass runway at Duxford. The runway is known to be bumpy and the temperature was 28° C.

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