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Bob Hoover Helps P-51 With Stuck Gear Land Safely

 

Cavanaugh Flight Museum's P-51D Brat III
Cavanaugh Flight Museum's P-51D Brat III. Photos by Scott Slocum/courtesy of Cavanaugh Flight Museum

Cavanaugh Flight Museum's P-51D Brat III
A stock photo of Cavanaugh Flight Museum's P-51D Brat III, in flight.

February 27, 2012 – Some fast thinking by Cavanaugh Flight Museum officials, along with remote advice from one of the greatest pilots who ever lived, allowed for the safe landing of the museum's P-51D Mustang Brat III, which was providing rides on Sunday at Mobile Downtown Airport, Alabama.

Things got a little dicey at the conclusion of a 30-minute flight when the left main gear failed to deploy for landing. But thanks to some crack flying by Chuck Gardner, EAA 1026448, and a suggestion radioed from the ground, the gear eventually came down, locked, and the plane landed without further incident.

Owned by the Dallas-based museum, Brat III was in town kicking off an eight-city ride tour, along with the Commemorative Air Force's B-29 "FIFI". When the gear failed to deploy and initial efforts to get it down were not successful, the ground crew in Mobile called Museum Director Doug Jeanes, EAA 9030191, Warbirds of America 23076, in Dallas to let him know the situation.

Jeanes immediately called the person whom he thought might have some ideas to remedy the situation: legendary pilot Bob Hoover, who at the age of 90 knows P-51s about as well as anyone. Hoover, EAA 21285, Warbirds of America 49, IAC 434948, flew Mustangs in World War II, was test/demonstration pilot at Mustang-maker North American Aviation, and flew that distinctive yellow P-51 Ole Yeller for years on the air show circuit.

"I just happened to be talking with Bob about two hours earlier," Jeanes explained. The problem, which they discovered later, was that the gear strut had lost pressure, so the gear didn't fully extend. It was therefore stuck in the wheel, resulting in the switch being damaged.

After trying about everything they could think of to no avail, Jeanes relayed a suggestion from Hoover to "Yaw it really good" to try and force air under the gear door, then do a series of positive and negative g maneuvers.

According to a report of the incident on Al.com, Gardner took Brat III over Mobile Bay and up over the Mobile River Delta to perform Hoover's recommended maneuvers. Along for an unexpected extended flight was area resident Bill Barton, who had paid for a 30-minute flight of a lifetime aboard the vintage fighter. He wound up flying for more than 90 minutes.

"I didn't think either of us were in extreme danger. But I was concerned that a beautiful piece of American history could have been badly damaged," Barton told Al.com.

After about a half-hour of maneuvering, the gear finally came down, verified by the "three in the green" indicator lights on the panel and a "jarring" sound noted by Barton. There was never any fuel exhaustion issue, but had the Hoover-inspired maneuvers not done the job, they would have had to make an emergency landing with one main gear extended.

The gear up switch was scheduled to be repaired on Tuesday, Jeanes said, and the tour will resume. Among the venues on the schedule is the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland March 27-April 1. EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is a likely destination this summer.

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