Saturday, September 29, 2012

Supermarine Aircraft Spitfire Mk 26 Replica, ZK-SPT, Harding Enterprises Alpha Ltd.: Accident occurred September 29, 2012 at Wanganui Airport - New Zealand

Rick Harding had emergency services waiting as he landed his replica Spitfire on its belly 

There was minor damage to the plane

Rick Harding had emergency services waiting as he landed his replica Spitfire on its belly. The landing went so well, they were just spectators.

Mr Harding was forced to land the plane on its belly after a wheel jammed. He was more worried about the Spitfire than himself.

“I didn't think,” he says. “I was a bit naive but didn't think I was in too much trouble.”

His wife Heather wasn't so relaxed. He had called her on their two-way radio to organise help. She says it was “very frightening”.

But Mr Harding has been a pilot for decades so knew to keep calm. He's happy if people still use his nickname Ditch, although he can't remember how he earned it.

“If I knew I probably wouldn't tell you. But nothing to do with my flying ability I hope.”

His Spitfire is a slightly smaller replica of the original plane and he only began flying it earlier this year.

“It does the job well. Things mechanical sometimes give trouble.”

So the crash landing hasn't put Mr Harding off his Spitfire or flying in general. And his wife won't be grounding him.

“He's a good pilot,” she says. “I don't mind at all. He couldn't be better.”

Mr Harding says it'll be at least a month before the Spitfire's repaired and ready to fly again.

3 News

"Bugger" was a veteran pilot's response to completing a perfect belly-landing in his replica Spitfire after a glitch with the landing gear. 

Pilot Richmond Harding, 74, had just taken off in his replica Supermarine Mk26B Spitfire from Whanganui Airport on Saturday when he noticed one of the wheels had failed to retract fully into the wheel well.

After 30 minutes in the air attempting to fix the problem, he safely belly-landed on grass at the airport.

Mr Harding, who has been flying for more than 50 years, walked away without a scratch, but his plane had some minor damage.

He said he was a bit embarrassed that his landing had garnered so much attention.

"If a real one [Spitfire] crashed I could understand the attention, but it's just a little replica one and it was pretty simple.

"The chances of you doing too much grief to yourself are pretty remote really.

"Underneath it there's nothing to snag and dig in. It's pretty smooth. I didn't land with too much flap so they wouldn't hit the ground.

"I just touched down on the radiators and skidded a few metres. It wasn't even too much of a jolt. I just got out and said, 'Bugger'."

When he first noticed the problem with the wheels he tried to fix it from the air. "I recycled it [the landing gear] to put it down again, but it wouldn't come down. It had jammed in that position," he said.

"I tried to pull some positive Gs on the aeroplane, turning it and flipping it, but that didn't release it. It had even jammed so much it wouldn't freefall. So I decided that I was probably going to have to do a wheels-up landing."

He radioed his wife Heather and told her to contact the airport manager and the fire brigade.

Seven fire engines, an ambulance and police were at the airport in case the landing did not go smoothly.

Mr Harding said the landing was simple and he was not afraid or panicking. "I've had incidents in aeroplanes before. There's pretty much nothing you can do, but bring it in and land it."

When pilot Richmond Harding got in trouble last night in his replica Spitfire, the first thing he did was call his wife Heather on the radio.

And what did Heather do? "What do you think I did? I panicked. I'm too old for all this jazz," she said.

When Harding's landing gear failed, Richmond knew he'd have a bumpy landing. But Heather notified emergency services by radio and kept talking to her husband.

Richmond said the landing gear failed to retract properly after he took off from Wanganui on his way home after catching another flight to Ardmore for the day.

"It's something that you prefer doesn't happen."

He circled the airfield while emergency services prepared "in case things turned to custard" then retracted the wheels and bellied the plane on to grass.

"I busted the prop but kept the revs down to reduce the stress on the engine so she's still pretty clean really."

The veteran topdressing pilot, said he'll keep the plane and continue flying. "She's a lovely wee thing really."

Asked if he was in trouble at home, Richmond just chuckled.

Heather said Richmond first flew 59 years ago. He's a veteran top-dressing planes and helicopter pilot, so Heather wasn't surprised he climbed out in one piece.

"He's a very good pilot so he should know how to land safely."

Heather had no desire to fly.

"I love him. We'll be married 52 years on October 10. So we're old buggers."

Her own favourite plane was the turbo-prop top-dressing plane, the SuperAir Cresco.
She wasn't such a fan of the Spitfire. 

"I don't know much about it, but I know it's a little bitch of a thing," Heather said.

A replica WWII-era Spitfire plane has made an emergency landing at Whanganui Airport after its wheels malfunctioned. 

The pilot, the sole occupant of the plane, was unhurt in the incident which happened about 6:15pm today.

Airport manager Allan MacGibbon said the pilot h
ad been forced to make a "belly landing" on grass after the plane's wheels failed.

The plane had circled above the airport for about 30 minutes before it landed.

There was minor damage to the plane.  NZN

Spitfire lands safely after landing gear fails 

 A replica Spitfire made an emergency landing at Whanganui Airport on Saturday after its landing equipment failed.

The wheels on the aircraft did not come down and it had to make a belly landing on a grass landing strip.

Airport manager Allan MacGibbon says the pilot was not injured.

He says emergency crews were standing by, but the pilot is very experienced, having had more than 40,000 flying hours, and was able to land safely.

Mr MacGibbon says it is unlikely the emergency landing will deter the pilot from taking to the air again.

Spitfire crash lands safely at Whanganui 

A replica spitfire crash landed at Whanganui Airport this evening after only one of its wheels deployed when the pilot came in to land.

The pilot safely landed the one-seater plane on its belly and was uninjured.

The fire service was called to the airport just before 6pm.

Whanganui Fire station officer Jes Sorensen said seven appliances attended as the incident was a full airport emergency until the plane was safely on the ground.

"We were told there was a spitfire circling the airport. Only one wheel had come down so the pilot decided he wanted to try and land on the grass.

"We had everything set up in case of an emergency with extra fire engines, a rescue unit and a command unit."

After circling the airport for 30 minutes to allow other planes to land, the pilot retracted the wheel and did a belly landing on the grass.

The plane skidded for about 160 metres before coming to a stop.

Sorensen said the male pilot was shaken, but otherwise uninjured.

"Our job was very easy. He did a perfect landing, bent his [propeller] and probably did some damage to the under side, but there was no fuel spill or danger from a fire. He was only shaken up and wasn't taken to hospital."

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