Probationary Pilot Sheridan was killed in a Wirraway aircraft the morning of 7th November 1949, when he crashed following a partial engine failure during a solo training exercise.
The following is an extract from a crash report into the accident:
CRASH CRITIQUE No 14
FATAL ACCIDENT TO WIRRAWAY AIRCRAFT A20-489 AT KILMORE RACECOURSE VICTORIA ON 7th NOVEMBER 1949
SUMMARY OF INCIDENTS PRIOR TO LAST FLIGHT
On the morning of 7th November 1949, P/P J.B. SHERIDAN (A36176) RAN attended a mass briefing; given by the navigation officer of No1 FTS Point Cook.
The pilots were briefed to fly on a cross country flight from Point Cook to Tocumwal, Forest Hill, Seymour, thence returning to Point Cook. The aircraft were to be refuelled at Tocumwal and Forest Hill.
The first leg of the cross country from Point Cook to Tocumwal was to be flown at a height of 9000 ft climbing on course . from 3000 ft over Point Cook, descending to 2000 ft approaching Tocumwal.
P/P SHERIDAN’s instructor, Pl HOARE, flight tested Wirraway A20-489 for fifteen minutes before handing over the aircraft to P/P SHERIDAN. On the check test the instructor started up on the left reserve fuel tank and taxied out, changed to right tank, ran up the engine and took off on the right tank. After landing, P1 HOARE supervised the entry to the cockpit by P/P. SHERIDAN and in final briefing showed SHERIDAN that the fuel cock was operating on the right tank and told him that in the event of a forced landing he was to land “wheels-up”.
DETAILS OF AIRCRAFT AND PILOT
AIRCRAFT: WIRRAWAY MARK II A20-489
ENGINE: P & W WASP (MARK S1 H1 G) No 309
PILOT: P/P J.B. SHERIDAN (A36176) RAN (KILLED)
APPOINTMENT: PROBATIONARY PILOT No 1 FTS, POINT COOK
MEDICAL CATEGORY: A1B A3B, FIT FOR FULL FLYING DUTIES, JULY 1949
FLYING EXPERIENCE AND HISTORY OF PILOT
P/P SHERIDAN was a pupil on No2 FTS Course and had almost completed his Wirraway training phase. He had flown 105.35 hours on Wirraway aircraft and his total hours all types was 166.15 hours. P/P SHERIDAN, as a pilot, was considered slightly below average, with a tendency to over-confidence.
Last flight on Wirraway aircraft prior to accident:
3 November 1949 A20-618 Dual instrument flying period 1.00 Hour
Solo Dual Solo Dual Total
Tiger Moth 21.05 37.55 1.40 60.40
Wirraway 36.55 56.55 7.20 4.25 166.15
The pilot’s flying assessment was “Required Standard”.
HISTORY OF AIRFRAME AND ENGINE
Airframe Number A20-489
Brought into Service: 31 December 1941
Total flying hours: 1896 Hours
Last 360 hourly inspection: 1828 Hours 16 September 1949
Last 60 hourly inspection: 1888 Hours 21 October 1949
Airframe was serviceable before flight.
Engine P & W. Wasp (Mark S1 H1 G) Number 309 Installed in A20-489 on 13 September 1948
Total hours run 1165.40 Hours
Complete Overhaul 768.30 Hours 1 December 1944
Top Overhaul 1038.35 Hours 15 June 1949
Engine was serviceable before flight.
At the time of the accident there was 4/8 alto cu, base over 9,000 ft, with good visibility.
NATURE OF ACCIDENT
P/P SHERIDAN took off from Point Cook at 1004K hours on 7 NOV 49. At 1034K hours, P/P. SHERIDAN called Essendon Tower and said that he had engine trouble and would be making a forced landing at Kilmore.
About this time residents in the vicinity of Kilmore saw a Wirraway aircraft with the engine misfiring, flying at 4000 to 5000 ft. From eye witness statements, the pilot climbed the aircraft and flew about two miles north of Kilmore and then turned south to about two miles west of Kilmore. He then flew over the town of Kilmore and flew south again. The aircraft came back over Kilmore and one mile north turned right and commenced losing height as the aircraft did two circuits of Kilmore Racecourse. The aircraft came down to approximately 500 ft on the third circuit, as eye witnesses could clearly see that the aircraft had only one occupant. On the final turn into land, the undercarriage commenced to come down. The aircraft straightened up from the turn at approximately 80 to 100 ft and almost immediately afterwards the engine failed completely. The right wing dropped and the aircraft was seen to dive almost vertically into some trees and caught fire on impact with the ground. The time was approximately 1043K. The point of impact was approximately 150 to 200 yards from the boundary of the racecourse. P/P SHERIDAN was killed.
All the time the aircraft was in the vicinity of Kilmore, the engine was firing intermittently.
EXAMINATION OF WRECKAGE
The engine was found lying on the ground, with the airscrew underneath, at 180 ft to the direction of approach. The engine had struck the ground at an angle of 50o to 60o and had penetrated only slightly into the ground. The airscrew blades were all bent back indicating that the engine was not under power on impact.
From the position of the engine and fuselage it would appear that the aircraft made one half turn of a spin to the right before striking the ground.
The starboard mainplane was approximately six feet from the engine, the flap was down and the flap jack fully extended. The centre-section, and the fuselage in the inverted position, were about six feet behind the engine. The port mainplane had been lying alongside the fuselage and was completely burnt. The centre-section had both-fuel tanks blown by the fire and subsequent explosion. The starboard undercarriage leg was fully extended and the port undercarriage leg was partially down.
The carburettor was found lying about two feet to the rear of the engine.
After the wreckage of the aircraft had been brought back to Point Cook, the engine and components were examined. All spark plugs except one were satisfactory. One spark plug been damaged in the crash and had the insulation cracked. The magnetos were burned severely and could not be tested for failure.
As far as could be ascertained, the carburetor had been serviceable. The engine-driven fuel pump was tested and found to be worn, but the pump was delivering sufficient fuel to have run the engine at full power without cutting.
The cylinder heads were removed to see if-any internal defect could have caused the engine failure, but no internal defect was found. The cause of the engine failure is undetermined but it is thought that an intermittent fuel supply was responsible.
This accident was caused by poor technique after the pilot was committed to a forced landing, because of partial engine failure. From the time that P/P SHERIDAN advised Essendon Tower at 1034K that he had engine trouble and was going to force land at Kilmore, to the time that the crash occurred at 1043K, nine minutes elapsed.
During this time P/P SHERIDAN showed indecision in his actions, After making up his mind to force-land, his actions were such as to assure that he was placing reliance on his engine to assist him in making his landing.
Instead of closing his throttle and carrying out a normal force-landing procedure while he had plenty of height and was in an area where a number of suitable forced landing fields were available, he used up his height by flying north and south in the vicinity of Kilmore and in doing two right- hand inspection circuits of the Kilmore Racecourse before making his final circuit at a relatively low height.
The procedure that he used had all the indications of a precautionary landing procedure using engine assistance. On his final circuit, which was right-hand, his height on the down wind leg was approximately 500 ft and he turned in. to land at approximately 200 ft. During the final turn, he apparently put full flap down and, during the latter stages of the turn, his undercarriage commenced to come down. After completing the turn, the engine failed completely. The aircraft stalled, flicked, and did one half turn of a spin to the right before striking the ground almost vertically. The aircraft was at a height of approximately 80 to 100 ft when the engine failed.
Squadron Leader DIRECTOR OF FLYING SAFETY
6 FEBRUARY 1950
By Webmaster. Additional comments were appended to this report which were highly critical of the pilot’s technique. In effect, he was blamed as the cause of the accident. This is patently not the case: the cause of the accident was engine malfunction. The young and inexperienced pilot made the mistake of relying on partial power to set up his forced landing, misjudged his approach, and subsequently lost control of the aircraft when the engine failed completely at very low level.