Cold War Bomber Taxi-Takeoff Incident Prompts Plaudits and Debate
September 10, 2009 — The flight instructor mantra “The flight isn’t over until you are in your car driving home” was in play for the crew of a Handley Page Victor, a 1950s vintage bomber, in May during Cold War Jets day at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, England. As seen in this Youtube video, the crew was only supposed to taxi the aircraft on the runway closer to the crowd for photos when, according to a report in the Daily Mail, the co-pilot inadvertently firewalled the throttles and the bomber accelerated down the runway.
The aircraft briefly lifted off and veered left, reaching as high as 150 feet, before retired RAF pilot Bob Prothero was able to nurse the barely flying bomber back down to a landing on the grass beyond the end of the runway. The video has now sparked a debate on whether there is more to the inept co-pilot theory that Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) adopted in its investigation report. However, since the “V-Bombers” such as the Victor retired from service in the 1990s; crews have been known to perform high-speed taxi demonstrations to give the crowd the look, feel, and sound of the aircraft on takeoff.
Prothero was in the left seat and had not flown the aircraft since the early 1980s. His co-pilot is actually an engineer with no flying experience who participates in the upkeep of the aircraft, but was asked to help operate the aircraft during the air show. Prothero said to the Daily Mail that he called for the co-pilot to close the throttles but he moved them in the opposite direction toward full throttle. Prothero says he had to make a split-second decision on whether to continue the flight into the air or land immediately. The CAA’s investigation was prompted because neither crew member was officially licensed to fly (although it was fine for them to taxi along the runway as had been intended). In its report, the CAA later blamed the unnamed co-pilot, saying he “froze” when ordered to reduce the throttle. No legal action is planned.