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Spitfire crashed after pilot error

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The pilot of a Second World War Spitfire pulled the wrong lever when it landed at East Midlands Airport, a crash investigation has revealed.

The plane's undercarriage collapsed as it was moving off the runway and its wooden propeller hit the ground and shattered. The 46-year-old pilot was uninjured.

He told investigators he wanted to control the flaps but pulled the wrong lever.

The incident occurred at about 3.20pm on January 7 and involved the vintage single-seater fighter which was based at the airport and belonged to Rolls Royce Heritage Trust.

The runway had to be closed for nearly three hours and flights were suspended or diverted.

A report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the pilot, who has not been named, had more than 9,000 hours flying experience, including 89 on Spitfires.

He told investigators the aircraft had landed on Runway 27 at East Midlands Airport and was taxiing when the undercarriage retracted.

He said he "intended to retract the flaps but inadvertently selected the undercarriage to up".

The levers are on different sides of the cockpit.

The report said: "It is apparently a usual practice to retract the flaps as soon as possible after landing to minimise the effect they have on cooling radiator airflow."

The AAIB noted there was no safety mechanism fitted to the aircraft to prevent the undercarriage retracting while it was being used on either take-off or landing.

The aircraft, which was built in 1945, is used as an "ambassador" for Rolls-Royce, appearing at air displays and charity events.

The plane took to the sky again in October, following a 23-month "extensive refurbishment" which involved major systems and structures being dismantled, inspected, repaired and reassembled.

At the time of the incident, a spokeswoman for East Midlands Airport said: "The aircraft was met by the airport's fire service."

After the plane was removed, the runway was inspected before flights resumed.

Seven flights due to arrive at the airport – from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Tenerife, Aberdeen, Funchal and Rzeszow, in Poland – had to be diverted to Birmingham.

Spitfire crashed after pilot error


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