Air crash investigation: Landing gear on home-made warplane failed catastrophically as it touched down in Northern Ireland

An air accident report has revealed the dramatic moment a replica of one of the world’s most renowned warplanes scraped along a runway as it came in to land.

The plane – a blue-coloured Spitfire Mark 26 – had just touched down on Newtownards airstrip when its landing gear collapsed underneath it.

The accident happened after 8pm on August 12 last year, but has only now come to light publicly.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch launched an investigation immediately after the crash, and this concluded about five weeks ago.

A similar replica Spitfire in RAF colours (not the one that crashed)

However, its report appears to have gone un-noticed in the press; the News Letter came across it only by chance.

It states that the aircraft was a kit plane, otherwise known as a homebuilt aircraft, and was modelled on the classic Battle of Britain fighter, dating from 1938.

But instead of the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, this craft had a Japanese Isuzu V6 one, and was also only about 80% the size of the original plane.

The website www.kitplanes.com states that they can be a dangerous hobby, because “the fatality rate for homebuilt aircraft is almost 50% higher than the overall rate”.

The stable wheel (on the left of this picture) and the wrecked wheel (on the right)

The build-it-yourself Spitfire (one of just 15 registered in the UK) was being piloted by a single person at the time of the accident.

All that is known about the pilot from the investigators’ report is that they were aged 47 and had 712 hours of flying experience – but only one hour on this particular type of plane.

The report says they were not injured.

It states that, upon landing, “the aircraft suddenly veered” with the left wing, the propellor, and part of the engine scraping their way along the runway.

“The pilot first applied left rudder, and then full left brake,” said the report, but they could not steady the plane and keep it from striking the ground.

A photograph of the accident shows that the left wheel on the aircraft had basically crumpled underneath its weight and given way, pitching that side of the plane into the tarmac.

“Examination of the left landing gear leg revealed a failed weld,” investigators said, adding that this may have happened during a previous flight.

“The aircraft had not been flown since 2018 when, under previous ownership, it had suffered a heavy landing.

“The landing gear had been stripped, however the weld that failed could not be inspected,” said the report.

Because of the way it had been designed, it was hard to see the weld – and as such the Light Aircraft Association has issued a warning to other owners of such planes, and is “reviewing the design of the landing gear”.

No similar failures have been experienced by any of the other Spitfire Mk 26s in the UK.

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