e-publications republished with the permission of the B-25 ASSOCIATION
Here is an interesting story from 1943 by Peter J. Hennessey. I don’t know if he is still alive today. I put this up on www.B25.net about 15 years ago when I was flying “Heavenly Body” and their webmaster, too.
I copied this story from an old file I had, so you will need to format it accordingly. Just a note: the www.b25.net site has been taken down since Mike Pupich, the owner of “Heavenly Body,” passed away last year.
SPINNING A B-25 – BY PETER J. HENNESSEY
I was in aviation cadet class 42-D and graduated from twin engine flying school at Victorville, CA in April, 1942. They kept me there as an instructor, and six months later, I transferred to Douglas, AZ. We were flying AT-9s, AT-17s and AT-6s.
Sometime in early or mid-1943, I had an opportunity to go to Mather Field in Sacramento, CA for B-25 transition. I returned to Douglas and continued instructing, and sometime in late 1943 or early 1944, two B-25s were delivered to Douglas. One was a B-25A and the other a B-25B.
Since I was one of the few pilots at Douglas who was checked out in the B-25, one was assigned to me and the other was assigned to Claude McKinney who went through B-25 transition at the same time I did.
Our first assignment was to take all of the instructors up for an orientation flight so that they could see how a B-25 performed. After we completed that assignment, we then began checking out some of the instructors in the bomber.
One of the instructors who was assigned to me had been instructing in the AT-17 and had around a thousand hours of instructor pilot time. After take off, he would pull the B-25 into a steep climb similar to what jets do now, however, he did not pick up critical single engine air speed.
I kept telling him that if he lost an engine, it would be the last take off he ever would make. For some reason, I could not convince him of this.
One day we went to 9,000′, and I was demonstrating what could happen. Douglas’ elevation was 4,100′, so we were approximately 5,000′ above the ground. I dropped the gear and take off flaps and made a power off stall. I then gave full power to both engines and kept it in a steep climb while pulling up the gear and the flaps.
I was trying to simulate a take off. I turned the controls over to him and then pulled the right throttle back. He continued to keep it in a climb, however, the nose started moving to the right into the dead engine, but he continued to fight it and apparently was convinced that he could control the aircraft.
My belief in a situation like this was that you either drop the nose to pick up sufficient airspeed to control the aircraft, or reduce power on the good engine to maintain control. Neither one of these options were very good if you did not have much altitude, such as immediately after take off.
One of the difficult things about instructing is to know when to take over if the student is getting into a difficult situation. If you take over too soon, he is likely to believe that he could have handled the situation and, of course, If you let it go too long, it could be a disaster.
In this case, I let it go a little too long as I believed he would eventually see that he couldn’t control the plane and take some action. He apparently felt, however, that he could still control it.
When it got to the point where I became very uncomfortable, I reached up and pulled power back on the left engine and was going to push the nose down to pick up air speed.
About the time I pulled the throttle back on the left engine, the plane rolled over on its back, and I thought I could pull back on the stick and “split S” out of it. The plane, however, did not react as I anticipated. The right rudder pedal came all the way back and I already had the elevator control in the rear position, hoping to split S.
The plane, however, went into a spin to the right, and we were inverted for a time. I put both feet on the right rudder pedal, but could not move it. I pushed on the control wheel and could barely move it. I called to my student to do the same so we were both on the controls, but we could not move the rudder and could barely move the stick.
The only other B-25 that I knew of that had gotten out of a spin was when we were taking transition at Mather Field, and my recollection was that they went into a spin at about 10,000′ and lost 8,000′ or 9,000′ before it came out. We only had 5,000′ to lose, so I knew we had to do something different.
Although I never read about it or even discussed it with anyone, I had wondered if a twin engine plane could be brought out of a spin by using one engine? When I realized that we were not likely to operate the controls to get out of the spin in a normal way, I decided to try the engines.
I gave full throttle to the right engine, and after two or three turns, the spin slowed, and I came back on the throttle on the right engine. The plane seemed to stop rotating, however, it immediately went into a spin to the left.
I opened the throttle on the left engine, and after several turns, it seemed to come out of the spin and I came back on the throttle, but this time the plane went into part of an outside loop as it went on its back, and the nose came up well above the horizon. The plane shuddered, the nose dropped, and then it went into a very tight spin.
At this point, I was convinced we were not going to control the aircraft. Others onboard were the flight engineer, who had gone into the bombardier’s nose, and a second lieutenant who had never been up in a B-25 and asked if he could ride with us? The centrifugal force was great and we couldn’t get out of our seats, and I told the second lieutenant to bail out.
We were using chest packs, which you don’t wear until you need them, but the centrifugal force was so great he could not lift up his chest pack to clip it on to its harness.
I again opened up the right engine as the plane was spinning to the right. and after three or four turns, the plane stopped spinning with its nose down. I eased back on the throttle, and it did not go into another spin.
I came back on the stick to put the plane in level flight, and everything was normal from that point on. We lost only two to three thousand feet, which seems unbelievable, but we still had several thousand feet of altitude when we got the aircraft under control.
I learned something from this experience, and I am pretty certain that the other instructor pilot was convinced of the need to pick up critical single engine speed after take off before starting to climb.
In trying to analyze what happened, I believe we were in a flat spin, and although we could stop the plane from spinning by using the engines, we did not have enough air speed, and it was still in the stalled status. This is why it would go into another spin, and it wasn’t until we picked up enough forward speed that we were able to control the aircraft.
I guess everyone who flies gets into difficult situations at some time. I had been in some before, but I was confident that I could control the aircraft. In this case, however, when the aircraft did not respond the way I thought it should I was convinced that we would not get out of the aircraft alive. Fortunately, we did.
We landed and inspected the aircraft. It was painted olive drab, so popped rivets could be seen rather easily, but we could not detect any. Of course, I reported the incident and the aircraft was sent to sub-depot where they made a complete inspection.
After about a week, I received a telephone call they could not find any structural damage to the aircraft, but they wanted me to test-hop it, which I did. I got plenty of altitude and put the plane in some very tight turns, and at the end I rolled the aircraft off its back. I put the nose down and picked up speed and made a hard pull-out at about the red line on the airspeed indicator.
The aircraft performed beautifully, and I flew that same plane for quite some time until newer models were sent to us.