AAIB investigation to North American/Aero Classics P-51 Mustang, N51BS

Runway excursion on takeoff, Woodchurch Airfield, Kent, 25 May 2018.


The pilot reported that he was experienced in operating historic military aircraft and had completed P-51 training one year before the accident. He explained that N51BS was heavier than other P-51s he had flown because it had been restored to its original configuration, which included heavier materials and inert weaponry.

The accident occurred during takeoff from Woodchurch Airfield. The runway was 750 m long and the pilot reported that its grass surface had become soft due to rain. He commented that he did not apply full power immediately to avoid causing the aircraft to roll in the opposite direction to propeller rotation. As the aircraft moved, its wheels sank into the ground and it did not reach the desired speed for takeoff. At the end of the runway the pilot turned the aircraft to avoid a ditch. It struck a fence and came to rest approximately 180 m beyond the end of the runway.

The pilot stated that because he had successfully operated a different P-51 from another grass strip of similar dimensions to Woodchurch he did not perform a performance calculation. He reflected that he had not experienced the ground becoming as soft as it was on this occasion, and he had not considered the higher weight of N51BS.

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North American/Aero Classics P-51 Mustang, N51BS 11-18

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Published 8 November 2018