NTSB Identification: FTW02LA098
On March 21, 2002, approximately 1126 mountain standard time, a Republic P-47N-20-RE airplane, N47TB, was substantially damaged when it impacted the runway during an emergency landing just after takeoff from the Albuquerque International Airport, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The airplane was registered to and operated by the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum Inc., of Midland, Texas, doing business as the Confederate Air Force. The commercial pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 maintenance test flight. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.
According to the pilot, who was an FAA certified airframe and power plant mechanic, on the morning of the accident, he completed re-installing the engine following an overhaul by another company. He made several engine run and leak checks, all parameters were within limits, and no leaks were noted. He then boarded the airplane for a 15 minute maintenance test flight. The flight taxied to runway 08, and while waiting to takeoff, the pilot of another airplane (Cessna) reported that she observed fire emitting from the right exhaust of the P47. The P47 pilot heard the transmission, increased the throttle from idle to 800 rpm, and the tower controller reported that he did not observe any flames. The P47 pilot reported to the controller that, at idle "it is normal to have some torching coming out of the exhaust." The pilot of the Cessna later reported that the flames were 2-3 feet long and 1 foot wide.
The P47 pilot then performed a pre-takeoff engine run-up, noted no anomalies and departed. During the initial takeoff climb from runway 08, just as the pilot reached for the landing gear lever, the cockpit filled with black smoke. The engine then began to lose power and shake. The pilot elected to leave the gear extended and started to turn for a right downwind to runway 35; however, as the airplane was turning, the pilot realized that there was runway remaining on runway 08, and he turned back to runway 08. The tower controller then reported to the P47 pilot that the airplane was on fire. The airplane impacted the ground, and an intense fire erupted (the pilot observed a flash fire through the cockpit). The airplane slid 1,000 feet and came to rest upright. The pilot was able to exit the airplane on his own accord. The pilot was wearing a Nomex flight suit, Nomex gloves, a flight helmet, and a parachute.
The airplane sustained fire damage from the engine aft to the empennage. The right main landing gear was collapsed and the right wing was bent upward approximately 70 degrees near the wing root. Additionally, all four propeller blades tips were curled, and the engine firewall was structurally damaged.
An FAA inspector examined the airplane and the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-73 radial engine (serial number CP452996). He observed that the exhaust interconnect tube to the exhaust collector for the #10 cylinder was protruding through the inlet duct of the lower cheek cowl and was not connected to the cylinder. The area around the opening exhibited severe heat distress, consistent with a fire. The engine's oil supply lines and main fuel supply line were melted through and compromised. The oil and fuel line hoses were made of rubber and were not outfitted with fire shields. The engine was transported to Abbott Aircraft Services, Okmulgee, Oklahoma, for further examination. The examination revealed that the #10 cylinder differential compression was 35/100; however, metal particles were found on the cylinder's valve seat and valve face. No other pertinent anomalies were discovered with the #10 cylinder or the remainder of the engine.