P-51 crash that killed my flight instructor

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by mlmcdonald, Jun 24, 2008.

  1. mlmcdonald

    mlmcdonald New Member

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    I'm not quite sure whether this thread fits in this topic but I think it's related so here goes. My flight instructor in the sixties (civilian) was Bill Barnes, son of the aviation legend Pancho Barnes. She raced with the likes of Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Doolittle, and in later years was the owner of the Happy Bottom Riding Club off the end of the runway of what was to become Edwards Air Force Base (if you've seen "The Right Stuff" you've heard of it, though in a grossly sanitized version.) In other words, for all intents and purposes, Bill was born in a cockpit.

    He flew everything, and eventually came to own Barnes Aviation at Fox Field, just outside of Lancaster, California--where one day, I might add, to my great surprise and unending delight, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Pancho herself. If you saw "Tora, Tora, Tora," Bill flew some of the T-6s that were made to look like Zekes, Vals, and Kates. I hadn't seen him for over 30 years when, a couple of years ago, I decided to find out what had become of him and learned online that he was killed in 1989 while flying a P-51 Mustang.

    I've tried to learn more, but have not been able to find out any more than that. If anyone can help me to learn the details of what happened to my instructor and friend, I would be forever grateful.

    Michael
     
  2. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Bill was running an aviation FBO called Barnes Aviation at Fox Field at the time of his death which was actually in 1980. His wife add son still runs the business as far as I know.

    From what I understand Bill was either taking off on runway 24 or was doing a low approach and crashed just outside the airport perimeter. His passenger was the brother in law of a guy I did work for at Mojave Airport.

    Here's the place in the 1960s

    [​IMG]

    Here's the NTSB Report

    LAX81FUQ01
     
  3. mlmcdonald

    mlmcdonald New Member

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    Thanks FLYBOYJ. I didn't even have the date right, which just goes to show how much I didn't know about his death. I started there when the FBO was called Willbanks Aviation before Bill bought it. I haven't been back to Antelope Valley since the early 70s and the photo brings back memories. I remember the graveyard in the background was full of Constellations and made the airport real easy for a novice pilot to find his way around the vicinity.

    Anyway, I wonder how it happened. Mechanical failure, perhaps? I see that he only had a few hours in the P-51, so maybe it just got away from him, though with all those hours that really doesn't seem likely. Thanks for the info.

    Michael
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Hi Michael;

    From some of the old timers I knew around Fox, they thought it was on take off and he perhaps got into a torque roll. There is a big barren patch of dirt off the end of runway 6; I was told that's where they crashed.

    I lived in the "AV" from 1988 - 2003. I learned how to fly at the Edwards Aero Club and was found between Fox and Mojave, a good place to learn who to fly in gusty and cross winds. The place really boomed then busted, but right now is just an extension of LA - crowded and crime ridden. I do go back abut once a year to do some side work and sometimes fly.

    Did you ever meet Bill's wife?
     
  5. mlmcdonald

    mlmcdonald New Member

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    Hi Flyboy:

    I remember the bare patch of dirt well. I recall using it as a reference point when I was learning to land. I lived in AV from 1955 until about 1972. I graduated from Palmdale High in '67. And yeah, talk about learning to land with crosswinds! Jeez, 30-40 mph was calm.

    I did know his wife: a little Asian woman whose name I now forget. I do remember reading on a forum I found when I was trying to find out what had happened to him some pretty bad things people were saying about her. I don't know. Maybe losing him made her bitter or something, because I remember her as a cute little thing who was always really nice to me--just a little hard to understand--when I knew them from about 1965 until I moved away.

    I haven't been back to the Valley since maybe 1978 or so. When I lived there it was really a pretty good place to grow up. I think the population of Palmdale was about 5,000 or so--now it's some ungodly number like 100,000 I think. In a way I'd like to go back to look around but I'm afraid it would just make me sad.

    I only flew into Mojave airport once when I rode with Bill to take a twin engine Cessna over there one night; I don't even remember what it was about. I did go to the air races there the first year they held them: I think it was called the California 1000, which they shortened to 500 the next year. There was (I think) a C-47 entered that was trying to make it by not having to refuel; that didn't quite work out. The other thing I recall was a horrible crash of (again I think it was) a P-47.

    Anyways, nice talking to someone from home. And thanks again for the info.

    Michael
     
  6. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Hi Michael...

    His wife Shu-ling was hell on wheels, ran the business with an iron fist. I never had to deal with her too much but a lot of other folks at Fox never liked her. One time she had an ELT going off in one of her planes, had to call the cops to convince her to shut it off! :lol:

    I started going up to the valley in 1981 when I first started working for Lockheed. Even when it boomed in the mid 80s and again in the late 80s it wasn't that bad. I think Palmdale has about 130,000 people, Lancaster about 125,000.

    I think the guy that crashed with Bill last name was Helwick - ring a bell?

    I would have loved to live there during the period you grew up there. To me the place will always be "Aviation Mecca."
     
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  7. mlmcdonald

    mlmcdonald New Member

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    Hi Flyboy:

    Ah! Shu-Ling, that's it. I guess she must be a holy terror, but I swear I didn't see anything bad about her back then. I don't know. Maybe I just wasn't there for anything that set her off. I do remember that the two of them seemed pretty happy together. Or maybe she changed after Bill was killed. Oh well.

    Helwick? Sorry. Don't recognize the name.

    It really was "Aviation Mecca." When I was a kid there were sonic booms all the time. One of the coolest things was to see the SR-71, which as I recall had maintenance performed on it at Lockheed, flying low overhead in Palmdale on takeoff/landing from Plant 42. Even though it was not all that rare an occurrence, impressive as it was it would still make everyone stop and look up. I remember seeing lots of F-102s, F-104s, and later on F-4s, F-5s, C-130s, and I don't remember what all else. I got to go to the ceremony to roll out the B-70 Valkyrie in 1962, I think. Huge airplane. Really impressive. Too bad.

    I've looked at Google Earth images of Palmdale and it's really depressing. The main part of town used to be centered on Sierra Hwy. and Palmdale Blvd. Now I see that all of that has been torn down. It really was a pretty nice place, but I guess now it's just another suburb of L.A.

    Michael
     
  8. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    He didn't have much time in the P-51, but with 9000 hours, surely he was familar with high torque engines. Still, I would have been careful. Of course it may have been equipment failure.

    I worked in Palmdale off and on in the '90s at the Northrop facility off Ave. M on the B-2 and visited the B-2 facility on Edwards. At Edwards they use to have an old B-1 parked in front of the B-2 hanger to confuse spy satellites. Often saw U-2s (TR1s?) and F-117s. Of course I also got to see the B-2 fly (as well as being manufactured), always awsome. I really didn't mind the temperature extremes, but I did't like the wind.

    When I first joined Northrop, we flew to Edwards in a Piaggio P.166, an interesting twin engine aircraft with twin pusher props. Later we flew in a twin otter, a plane that basically flew at the same speed it taxied. Take off was simple, no rotate, just taxi fast, then you are flying.
     
  9. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Dave I remember the Piaggio and Otter. I think later on they had those "flying pencils" going into south base.

    I worked on AV3 - 7. I'm the guy who named "Christine," I think it was AV4 or 5.
     
  10. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    I don't remember one called "Christine", (I may have been in Pico during that period, or I could have just forgot). I do remember one called "The Spirit of San Francisco", though.

    What work did you do? I used to love to walk up and down the production line. I always wanted to see it full, but alas, it never happened. I was on the original proposal team responsible for Controls and Displays, Flight management and Comm, Nav, Ident. I took over the Avionics Controls and Display group and later moved into the Multstage Improvement Program (MSIP). I was very fortunate to work on an aircraft from initial conception to bombs on target, a rarity among engineers.
     
  11. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I worked for Boeing and was a "Modification Inspector" - in essence final inspector. I did all aspects of final assembly with an emphasis on fuel tank seal. I took the job after being laid off from Lockheed where I was a Quality Assurance Engineer - a little overqualified but it worked out fine for me. I was there from June 1990 through December where I quit and went to work for Rohr industries.
     
  12. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Yikes! A QA guy!:shock: :)

    Sounds like you have had a varied background in aerospace. Quite impressive.
     
  13. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Yep - I'm one of those "derriere's.":twisted:
    Thanks - most of my time was in QA although I did a lot of sidework to stay connected with my GA roots. The thing I hated most about the manufacturing side of the business were the people that were there for the paycheck and had no pride or passion about aviation, or the know it alls that spent 15 years putting jo-bolts into a wing splice - I used to call them "bomber builders" because between the B-1 and B-2 that's all they knew. One of my last bosses at Mojave was that way, a former Lockheed guy, he knew nothing about flight test, modifications or heavy maintenance and I think I got laid off because of his jealousy. Anyway I'm ranting but things worked out for me.

    Still miss the AV when it comes to my side work and just flying around - my normal run was Mojave to Fox, Rosemond, Cal City, Inyokern, Techachipi and back to Mojave.
     
  14. agentvf

    agentvf New Member

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    I am looking for information or article about David R. Barnes who was killed in a plane crash maybe in late 70's or early 80's . His family owned Barnes Aviation in Lancaster, California. He was married to Janet Barnes, formally Janet Hendrickson from Quartz Hill. I am only investigating for a friend.

    Myself, I am a mom of a Severely wounded SPC injured in the war in Iraq.

    Thank you for your help.
    Vicky
     
  15. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Some really good jocks were killed in a 51 after losing the engine on takeoff, thought they had enough energy to bring it back without damage and stalled in the attempt
     
  16. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Hi Vicky;

    As far as I know William E. Barnes owned the business, maybe David was his son. Bill was killed in 1980 while flying a P-51. I do know Bill had a Korean wife named Su-Ling (spelling?). She was still involved running the business with another son when I left the AV in 2003.
     
  17. Helogirl

    Helogirl New Member

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    For everyone's information, the guy in the back seat of the P-51 Bill Barnes was flying, was my brother, Cliff Hellwig. Bill was joining up with a B-29 to fly to the Edwards Air Show, also Bob Guilford was to join up with the P-51, in his F4U-7 Corsair.

    The P-51 went into the ground with full power, (the prop blades were bent forward). The NTSB believe that the coolant lines in the P-51 must have ruptured, because both helmets were permeated with glycol. My brother, Cliff was in the jump seat in the back - no controls. If Bill was incapacitated quickly, he didn't have the ability to pull back on the power or set up for a gear up landing.

    The beautiful Lou IV cartwheeled through power lines, broke up and burned. It was heart-wrenching to see the remains. We not only lost my brother, a dear friend, Bill Barnes, but a lovely piece of WWII history.

    Guilford flew over the wreckage and went on to the air show. Guess he couldn't face Shouling or any of us who remained back at the airport watching that horrible column of black smoke.
     
  18. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Hi Cathy! ;)

    Thanks for coming on and sharing that with us, I know the story being told never gets easy - I'll see you guys in a few weeks!
     
  19. Helogirl

    Helogirl New Member

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    Hey Joe! Shouling Barnes and her sons still run Barnes Aviation. Shouling and Bill never had children together. Her children are from a previous marriage and she is Chinese. Steve Ma, Shouling's son, was in the office last time I was there.

    I think Bill had a son when he was married before, but the son was killed in an aircraft accident, I think at Rosamond. He never had any other children to my knowledge. I have never heard of a "David Barnes." No relation to Bill and Shouling.

    Thanks for the annual! A little less windy today! :eek:)
     
  20. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Thanks Cathy, it was great to see you guys. Take care and fly safe!
     
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