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Elwin  J.  McKenney

 

Personal Legacy
ELWIN J. McKINNEY
World War II
Memories and Biography
13 August 1943

(Taken from an e-mail to Will Lundy)

My crew, along with several others, got orders to join the 44th in Bengazi from England. This was shortly after getting to England and we had not even seen Shipdham. We had to hitch hike on ATC and when we got to Bengazi on a goony bird, they dropped us off with the Col. Kane's group. I think it was the 389th. We were there a few days before and after Ploesti. I flew a search mission over the Med. On the 2nd of August, 1943.

I don't remember how long it took us to get to the 44th, but in that interim, the Wiener Neustadt mission must have been flown. I missed it entirely. Things were pretty fouled up and I really didn't know what was going on until my first mission to Foggia. I learned fast.

Mac

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ELWIN J. McKENNEY
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from an article sent to Will Lundy)

Article regarding Channel incident. No newspaper name noted.
A/C No. 41-23811K, 66th Sqd. "Fascinatin' Witch."

When I read William E. Coleman's story "Channel Incident" in the Journal where he tells of troubles caused by the strange actions of his autopilot, I recalled a similar incident.

It was on 16 September 1943 and we were on our way from Shipdham to Marrakech, the first leg of a trip to Tunis. We were loaded with a full crew, all our luggage, spare parts, equipment, bicycles, etc. This was the second tour to North Africa for our Wing; the first was to Bengasi.

Lands End, England was well behind us and we had leveled off at 12,000 feet over the Atlantic, some place northwest of Portugal. It was night and we were in smooth air between cloud layers. No horizon, strictly on instruments. Most of our previous flying had been formation, low altitude, or other hands-on type, so my experience with autopilot was very limited. We had the auto pilot set on the "warm up" model during climb and had essentially forgotten about it.

The first sign of anything wrong was a slight vibration and unresponsiveness in aileron control. I noticed it first and asked the copilot to see if he could feel it. He took the controls and made some slight banks. The vibration and tendency to over control became more apparent and I got back on the controls with him trying to get things stabilized. It was too late; we were banking back and forth with the plane resisting our efforts to level off. On top of this we started into first a shallow and then steeper dive, still resisting all control efforts. The fleeing on the wheel and rudder control was first shaky with no response, then it would take hold and violently respond to where immediate counter control was necessary with the same feelings.

In a matter of seconds we were in a steep dive while banking about 70 degrees first to the right and then to the left. All this in complete darkness, on instruments. About two more cycles and we would have been rolling towards the Atlantic.

I guess a light came on in my head or something. In desperation, I banged down the master switch bar on the autopilot and full control was returned. We stopped the violent banking and concentrated on pulling out of the screaming dive without pulling the wings off that Liberator. I don't recall the airspeed, but I do remember the altimeter and rate of climb indicator were unwinding like I had never seen before. We finally leveled out at about 4,000 feet.

After getting our breath, the best course of action seemed to be to return to base to assess damage to the plane form the violent shaking maneuvers and stress of the pullout. We returned to Shipdham and made a very gentle landing.

The next day an inspection revealed only a few missing rivets. No structural damage. So we again took off or Marrakech, this time with no problems.
 
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