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Spitfire pilot 'pulled wrong lever' to crash after landing


A Second World War Spitfire crashed after landing when its pilot pulled the wrong lever, an accident report has concluded.

The plane had successfully landed at East Midlands Airport and was taxiing off the runway when the experienced 46-year-old male flyer selected the handle to retract the landing gear, bringing the wheels up and ditching the aircraft on the ground.

The pilot's error on January 7 this year shut the runway in Derbyshire for more than two hours, with flights having to be diverted or delayed.

A report bulletin to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) read: "The pilot stated that he had intended to retract the flaps but inadvertently selected the undercarriage to the 'up' position.

"However, the handles for each mechanism are on opposite sides of the cockpit."

The pilot had more than 9,200 hours' flying experience, of which 89 hours were in this type of plane, according to the report.

The wooden propellor on the 1945-built Mark XIX aircraft shattered as the plane grounded, with the crash also damaging the left wing and parts of the engine housing.

Unlike modern aircraft, there is no fail-safe switch preventing the undercarriage wheels from being retracted once the aircraft has landed.

The plane, owned by Rolls-Royce and based at the airport, was flown in the war on reconnaissance missions but has more recently taken part in aerial displays.