By Orville Wrosch (Flight Test; Crew Chief; Flight Eng’)
Transcribed from “BAD News – Journal of the BAD 2 Association” Vol. 3, No. 4, September 1980
© The BAD-2 Association 1980
“One of the procedures performed by Flight Test on P-51s after they had left the tender lovin’ care of the crews in Hangar 5 was to check and possibly readjust the automatic manifold pressure setting of the engine. This test was conducted on a special hardstand in Dispersal area one. (Located to the Northwest of the airfield. The hard-standings can still be seen today and are now amongst Bank Lane, the sports fields and the caravan park) This is the story of a power run that came to grief. Ed.”
In early 1945 I taxied a P-51 from Hgr. 6 to Area 1 for a power run. As I recall it, taxiing a P-51 was a lot like driving your car with the hood (bonnet) up. The only way you could see where you were going was to raise the seat all the way. Adjust the rudder pedals all the way back and sort of stand on the rudder pedals while bracing your back against the seat. From there on it was easy. Just “S-turn” left and right all the way to your destination at a normal accepted speed of 5 to 10 MPH.
Upon arrival at the “rosebud” I swung the ship into the wind and parked it so that the rear of the fuselage was over the tie-down ring, embedded in the concrete, and killed the engine… for the first time. I tied the tail down and then stacked sandbags in front of the main wheels. The purpose of the tie-down and sandbags was to prevent the ship from nosing over at high RPM. (I believe that a gentleman by the name of Rodriguez proved that if this precaution was not observed, you could nose one over). I then removed the cowling to gain access to the manifold press adjustment. As usual, after the power run, I took the cap off the coolant expansion tank to be sure there was no “baby s****” in the coolant. In thinking back I can still hear the snarl of that Merlin; a sound that once heard, is never forgotten.
After replacing the cowling I started back to the hangar to write the ship up as ready for test hop. Of course, after “driving” those ‘51s around for a few months you thought that you were pretty hot stuff and so I was tooling along the taxi strip at about 25 MPH. As I essed to the right I looked out of the left side of the cockpit and l and behold, there was Paul Schultz, coming the other way in another ’51. I locked the brakes and over she went. The prop dug an 18’’ gash in the concrete and I killed the engine for the second time. But this time I really killed it. The ship was towed to one of the hangars where a bent crankshaft was discovered which necessitated an engine change.
I thought that Ole Sarge Wrosch was about to start drawing $52 a month once more. I did more than my share of sweating for a while but all was forgotten and I retained my rank. But, rest assured that my taxi speed was greatly reduced from that time on.