Halifax Bomber Flyability with Port Outer Engine and Adjacent Wing on Fire

jay hammond

Airman
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Sep 11, 2021
Looking for what happens to a Halifax bomber when it’s port outer engine is set on fire and to make matters worse the undercarriage is down. Is it hard to fly, impossible to fly and, if so, why? What aircraft services/functions were powered by the port outer engine? Was it physically demanding for the pilot and if so why? If the engine was on fire would that fire spread along the wing? Was it just a matter of time until the port inner caught fire? How long would it take using the port engine fire extinguisher to put the engine fire out? How long to feather it?

Thanks in advance for all the help. Jay Hammond
 

FLYBOYJ

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Looking for what happens to a Halifax bomber when it’s port outer engine is set on fire and to make matters worse the undercarriage is down. Is it hard to fly, impossible to fly and, if so, why? What aircraft services/functions were powered by the port outer engine? Was it physically demanding for the pilot and if so why? If the engine was on fire would that fire spread along the wing? Was it just a matter of time until the port inner caught fire? How long would it take using the port engine fire extinguisher to put the engine fire out? How long to feather it?

Thanks in advance for all the help. Jay Hammond
You have many variables in there. How big of a fire? What altitude?

Without going into systems, if an engine catches fire, immediately shut down and the propeller is feathered. Along the way there should be a fire extinguishing system within the engine nacelle. The emergency procedure should happen pretty quickly depending on how well the pilot is trained. Once the engine is shut down and fire addressed, the aircraft is trimmed to fly on 3 engines, with the landing gear extended it shouldn't be too difficult to fly. What doesn't help matters is most if not all RAF bombers operated with a single pilot and with a single set of controls. Some may argue the the flight engineer can help in emergency situations, but a second pilot with a second set of full controls is definitely a better risk mitigator.
 

MiTasol

Chief Master Sergeant
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Early aircraft have one hydraulic pump on the left inboard engine so having an outer engine out will not affect the hydraulics
Later aircraft have a pump on both inboard engines so same result in your scenario. Below is from Hallifax II and V PN. The numbers in brackets are for the Mk V
1665264750484.png

L
 

pbehn

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As far as I understand it, if a fire spreads from an engine to the wing especially the fuel tanks, you have no real worries about it spreading further to the other engine, the wing ceases to be a wing in a very short time and you should get out if you can.
 

jay hammond

Airman
25
12
Sep 11, 2021
Looking for what happens to a Halifax bomber when it’s port outer engine is set on fire and to make matters worse the undercarriage is down. Is it hard to fly, impossible to fly and, if so, why? What aircraft services/functions were powered by the port outer engine? Was it physically demanding for the pilot and if so why? If the engine was on fire would that fire spread along the wing? Was it just a matter of time until the port inner caught fire? How long would it take using the port engine fire extinguisher to put the engine fire out? How long to feather it?

Thanks in advance for all the help. Jay Hammond
You have many variables in there. How big of a fire? What altitude?

Without going into systems, if an engine catches fire, immediately shut down and the propeller is feathered. Along the way there should be a fire extinguishing system within the engine nacelle. The emergency procedure should happen pretty quickly depending on how well the pilot is trained. Once the engine is shut down and fire addressed, the aircraft is trimmed to fly on 3 engines, with the landing gear extended it shouldn't be too difficult to fly. What doesn't help matters is most if not all RAF bombers operated with a single pilot and with a single set of controls. Some may argue the the flight engineer can help in emergency situations, but a second pilot with a second set of full controls is definitely a better risk mitigator.
Can you help me understand the aerodynamics involved? Does the burning engine/wing cause drag? How does this actually cause the plane to go into a dive and crash?
 

jay hammond

Airman
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Sep 11, 2021
As far as I understand it, if a fire spreads from an engine to the wing especially the fuel tanks, you have no real worries about it spreading further to the other engine, the wing ceases to be a wing in a very short time and you should get out if you can.
In other words once the wing is ablaze you’re hooped. And the only thing a pilot can do is try to hold the a/c steady so crew can abandon the plane. Right?
 

pbehn

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Oct 30, 2013
In other words once the wing is ablaze you’re hooped. And the only thing a pilot can do is try to hold the a/c steady so crew can abandon the plane. Right?
The engines had a bulkhead behind to try to stop fire spreading backwards, sometimes called a fire wall.. A fuel fire on a plane gets over 1000C very quickly, that will cause aluminium alloys to quickly distort, lose strength and melt or burn. BTW the Halifax was changed, later versions had much bigger rear vertical control surfaces which gave more stability. The two types are shown in here Handley Page Halifax - Wikipedia
 

FLYBOYJ

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Can you help me understand the aerodynamics involved? Does the burning engine/wing cause drag? How does this actually cause the plane to go into a dive and crash?
Again, how big of a fire will determine this. IMO for the most part it will cause some drag. If the fire goes to control surfaces (as previously mentioned) or burns control cables, the aircraft can being to roll to one side - now if the other 3 engines are ok and there is control along the lateral axis, it should remain in the air unless the fire causes the wing structure to fail.
 

MiTasol

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For a technical report on the Halifax go to the Polish Air Museum site and find this file. You will need to translate from German or alternatively find a copy of the publication AIrcraft Production dated June/July 42 from which it is derived. The RAF museum at Hendon has a complete set of these magazines. I'm sure if you requested nicely ($$), that they would laser copy the relevant articles for you. I would doubt there are any colour pages. If you request very very nicely ($$$) they may even do high resolution scans.

Most aircraft of the period had fabric ailerons though a small number, like the Spitfire, went all metal on later models.

Metal ailerons were the exception rather than the rule during the 30s and early 40s so I would be very surprised if the Halifax had metal ones.

1665272940961.png
 

Thumpalumpacus

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Can you help me understand the aerodynamics involved? Does the burning engine/wing cause drag? How does this actually cause the plane to go into a dive and crash?

An engine fire reduces thrust and therefore lift on one wing. It most likely causes more drag, but the differential in thrust between the two wings (one has two good engines, the other only one) will be there and demand the pilot to take measures.. That's for a four-engined plane. On a WWII twin, the differentials in thrust and drag are probably going to be more acute. Both structural damage, or damage to control linkages or surfaces can cause holes in the ground.
 
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Airframes

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The Yorkshire Air Museum example is part genuine fuselage, part replica, and part Hastings.

In general, if the engine fire is severe, apart from the issues already mentioned, if the fire spreads to the wing fuel tanks, then the problem really is bad. This could cause an explosion and could / would also eventually burn through the wing main spar, the duration for this to happen being dependant on the severity of the fire. If this happened, then catastrophic structural failure would occur, resulting in an unrecoverable spin, when the increasing "G" forces would make it virtually impossible for the crew to abandon the aircraft. The decision to bail out was down to the pilot, and although it's forty years or so since I talked to a couple of Halifax pilots who had to make this decision, from what I recall, both stated that the crew abandoned the aircraft fairly quickly when it was realised that the fire was out of control.
This situation was not exclusive to the Halifax, being true of other heavy bombers, such as the Lancaster, and particularly the B-24 Liberator.
 

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