What's really amazing is that the page on my website with pictures of that airplane typically gets about a dozen hits a week. Now there is a surge on that page. I am sure there are many reasons for it, but still, it's sad that people really appreciate aircraft like that when they are gone...
I should have worded that better. Many people, in times of grief, try to find something to help them with that grief. I know he was a good guy, lived locally to me and was a rated, experienced pilot. I just find it an item of interest that there is a sudden surge on that one page. I have consistent high counts on other parts, it does get my attention when there is a surge like that. I know there is a curiosity factor for some, to come and see what the airplane looked like. For others, they come to pay homage to John, that is why I updated the page. It didn't seem right to leave it as is, like nothing happened.
A lot of speculation at this point, but in speaking to some guys that were there, they said it looked like he hit tailwheel first on the landing. He then applied power to go around again and the plane torque-rolled. Again, this is speculation at this point. There may have been a mechanical malfunction, or any other of a number of factors that have not been taken into account.
The pilot was McKittrick. Apparently, he bounced a landing, applied too much power, and torque-rolled it (local assessment). Tragic, and he had just recorded several perfect landings with an instructor in the plane; it had dual-controls, and did just fine.
If you are an instructor, have a student who does it right 3 to 5 times in a row, just before soloing, you tend to let them have a go at it solo. In this case, the student simply mismanaged the power on the go-around.
Maybe a bounced-landing go-around should be practiced several times before solo? Maybe, even probably, it WAS.
In any case, tragic. I have a friend who has 30 or so solo hours his own, new, baby P-51 and he has no trouble with this, mostly due to practice of same.
Wish Mr. McKittrick had the same experiences with the aircraft ...
That's the one thing I'm a perfectionist with my students is landings. A low time VFR pilot will kill himself either on landings or flying into IMC. With a taildragger the demand is more intense and I could imagine how difficult it could be with 1400 horses under you!!!
I don't let any of my primary students solo until they have at least a good 10 - 15 landings under their belts. In this case the IP probably felt this guy had it down.