Monday, February 27, 2012

WWII plane will be repaired in Mobile, Alabama - Owner says fail safe part failed

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A former combat airplane that landed safely following landing gear trouble in Mobile is now in the shop waiting for repair parts.

Cavanaugh Flight Museum Director Doug Jeanes said he was in his Dallas home cooking when he got the call for help.

A P-51 flying over Mobile as part of a tour that brought a couple of World War II era plans to Brookley Field had a landing gear problem.

Jeanes said he radioed to someone on the ground in Mobile, who in turn relayed info to the pilot, Chuck Gardner.

"In the meantime, I called Bob Hoover who is an ex test pilot on the P-51s that I know. He told me a few things to try, and I had it relayed up to Chuck. After 75 attempts, the gear finally came down," Jeanes said.

"I was at home in bed when I got the call," said Hoover, by phone. "Doug asked me if I could offer the pilot any advice, which I did.I'm very happy that I could help."

Jeanes said they wanted to protect the plane as much as possible.

He said this P-51, worth about $3 million, is one of only a few in existence that have actual combat duty.

Its skin details the missions it has flown.

"Well, he comes in as slow as possible, lands on the good gear, might bounce it, try to knock the gear out. And typically in this situation, he'll ride on the left wing for a little bit and make a 90-degree turn and come to a stop," said Jeanes.

Jeanes described the G-force maneuvers that popped the gear into position as likely twice the G-force of a roller coaster ride.

He and Hoover agreed on what needed to be done to solve the problem.

"One of the things he said was really try to yaw it and slip it which is flying kind of sideways and try to get the air load on the door to help pull the gear out. Eventually it came out," said Jeanes.

The plane will soon be ready for its next tour date and passengers willing to pay for the experience of riding in a P-51.

"We found the problem with the airplane, and we have a part that's being sent out over night. So we should have it here tomorrow, and it's a very minor thing it's usually a fail-safe part but sometimes they go bad," said Jeanes.

Jeanes said they will come back to Mobile to give passengers who paid for a ride here their experience in the air.

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