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Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story

 


johnmatrix  (D 9999)

Nov 20, 2011, 6:09 PM
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Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story Can't Post

Speaks for itself... anyone here got an opinion on this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grahame_Donald

Donald also became famous for his miraculous escape from death having fallen from his Sopwith Camel at 6000 feet in 1917. On that fateful summer's afternoon he attempted a new manoeuvre in his Sopwith Camel and flew the machine up and over, and as he reached the top of his loop, hanging upside down, his safety belt snapped and he fell out. He was not wearing a parachute as a matter of policy. Incredibly, the Camel had continued its loop downwards, and Donald landed on its top wing. He grabbed it with both hands, hooked one foot into the cockpit and wrestled himself back in, struggled to take control, and executed "an unusually good landing". In an interview given 55 years later he explained, "The first 2,000 feet passed very quickly and terra firma looked damnably 'firma'. As I fell I began to hear my faithful little Camel somewhere nearby. Suddenly I fell back onto her."

ref: On a Wing and a Prayer by Joshua Levine

Shocked


JohnRich  (D License)

Nov 20, 2011, 6:31 PM
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Re: [johnmatrix] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

It might be believable if he had fallen into it again relatively quickly. But he indicates that he fell at least 2,000 feet before hitting the plane again, which would have put him at terminal velocity. And that would have killed him or broke things. Sounds like a tall tale to me.


riggerrob  (D 14840)

Nov 24, 2011, 11:07 AM
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Re: [JohnRich] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
It might be believable if he had fallen into it again relatively quickly. But he indicates that he fell at least 2,000 feet before hitting the plane again, which would have put him at terminal velocity. And that would have killed him or broke things. Sounds like a tall tale to me.

.......................................................................

Only a tall tale if the Camel were flying horizontally.

OTOH if the Camel were still in a dive, he might have fallen at almost the same speed. Several modern skydivers have re-entered diving airplanes. (e.g. Patrick de Gayardin (sp?)).


Marinus

Nov 24, 2011, 11:57 AM
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Re: [riggerrob] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

Quote:
Several modern skydivers have re-entered diving airplanes.

There's a lot of difference between a carefully prepared stunt by a professional and this. While it's at least theoretically possible, it seems awfully unlikely. OTOH awfully unlikely things do happen all the time.


Liemberg  (Student)

Nov 24, 2011, 3:12 PM
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Re: [Marinus] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

Not as often as awfully likely things - like him making it up... Smile


Marinus

Nov 24, 2011, 4:11 PM
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Re: [Liemberg] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

Of course it didn't happen. It's theoretically possible and it happens often in cartoons, but other than that...... But hey, it's a nice story!


johnmatrix  (D 9999)

Nov 24, 2011, 5:18 PM
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Re: [riggerrob] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking that too - but if Mr Donald is correct in in his altitudes that would mean he re-connected with the plane at 2,000 ft. It could theoretically happen if the plane was in a very steep dive, but to climb into a steeply diving plane at 2,000, regain control and pull out of the dive before impact...? I'm not a pilot but that sounds pretty hardcore... (or implausible)


JohnRich  (D License)

Nov 24, 2011, 6:03 PM
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Re: [riggerrob] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
In reply to:
It might be believable if he had fallen into it again relatively quickly. But he indicates that he fell at least 2,000 feet before hitting the plane again, which would have put him at terminal velocity. And that would have killed him or broke things. Sounds like a tall tale to me.

Only a tall tale if the Camel were flying horizontally.

OTOH if the Camel were still in a dive, he might have fallen at almost the same speed. Several modern skydivers have re-entered diving airplanes. (e.g. Patrick de Gayardin (sp?)).

How would he have "landed on the top wing" if the plane was still in a dive?


(This post was edited by JohnRich on Nov 24, 2011, 6:04 PM)


pchapman  (D 1014)

Nov 24, 2011, 6:15 PM
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Re: [johnmatrix] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll believe in some stories, as some weird thing happen during a war. Those who survive can have some pretty amazing tales -- otherwise they wouldn't have survived.

I'd believe there's some truth in the story, maybe coming partially out of the cockpit or even being totally free for a couple seconds.

But it seems pretty unlikely to get all the speeds and angles and locations all perfectly synchronized so that the plane arrived with just the right speed where he was. And the only way to survive it wouldn't be for the plane to be levelled out at the bottom of the loop, but for the plane to be descending just off the vertical with not many feet per second closure rate. Maybe Donald was good at head down, but otherwise, even if somewhat rag dolled in freefall, I'm not sure a Camel going into a near vertical dive for a couple thousand feet would be in the right speed range to meet up with Mr. Donald.

I bet the tale got embellished over drinks and over the grapevine, the pilot didn't try to quash the rumours of his amazing tale, and if he didn't disavow it soon, then he had to stick with the tale or look like a fraud. Especially because Donald continued in the military.

It would be fun for a historian to try to track how the story developed. The version in Wikipedia is based on an interview a few years before Donald's death in the 1970s. But I get the impression the tale had been around a long time.

Normally in a loop one would have slight positive or near zero G's at the top, but it was early days so he could have had some negative G loading trying to pop him out of the cockpit.

Anyway, the Levine book gets generally decent reviews for having real research (even if also having to rely on some possibly uncorroborated tales from pilots....) so I'll skim the audiobook version I 'found' on the web.


kd5xb  (Student)

Nov 27, 2011, 6:31 AM
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Re: [johnmatrix] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Speaks for itself... anyone here got an opinion on this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grahame_Donald

<snip>
As I fell I began to hear my faithful little Camel somewhere nearby.
<snip>

It's a tall tale. When's the last time you heard ANYTHING other than wind or an audible while at terminal?


pchapman  (D 1014)

Nov 27, 2011, 2:24 PM
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Re: [johnmatrix] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

 
Below is the full Grahame Donald quote that I transcribed from the audiobook.

Not only did he supposedly reconnect with his plane after a long freefall, the plane then flew inverted with him half out of the cockpit before he pulled it out level. I will grant him some slack when it comes to precision of speech and old vs. modern aeronautical terminology. Starting from speed, it would actually be an inverted spiral and not an aerodynamic spin.

Still, seeing a more full description doesn't help his case -- the whole event isn't over when he grabs onto his aircraft.

Guess you need a good story to regale the squadron commander with with when you spray your own airfield with bullets?!


Quote:
As I was approaching the airfield at 6000 feet, I decided to try a new maneuver which might prove useful in combat. It was to be a half loop and then I would roll at the top and fly off in the opposite direction. I pulled her up into a neat half loop but I was going rather slowly and hanging upside down in the air. With an efficient safety belt that would have been no trouble at all. But our standard belts were a 100% unsafe. Mine stretched a little and suddenly I dived clean through it and fell out of the cockpit. There was nothing between me and the ground. The first 2000 feet passed very quickly and terra firma looked damnably firmer.

As I fell, I began to hear my faithful little Camel somewhere nearby. Suddenly, I fell back onto her. I was able to grip onto her top plane and that saved me from slithering straight through the propeller, which was glistening beautifully in the evening sunshine. She was now diving noisily at about 140 miles per hour. I was hanging onto her with my left hand, and with one foot hooked into the cockpit, I managed to reach down with my other hand and I pulled her control stick backwards to pull her gently out of her dive. This was a mistake. She immediately went into the most appalling inverted spin. Even with two hands on the top plane I was slipping. I had about two and half thousand feet left. Remembering that everything was inverted, I managed to get my right foot on the control stick and managed to push it forwards. The Camel stopped spinning in half a turn and went into a smooth glide, but upside down. It was now easy to reach my hand down, or up, and pull her gently down and round into a normal glide. I grabbed the seat cushion which was obstructing the cockpit, chucked it over the side, and sat back down.

I was now at about 800 feet, but in spite of the extraordinary battering she had received, my little Camel was flying perfectly. One or two of the wings were a bit loose, but nothing was broken. I turned the engine off in case of strain, so my approach was made in silence. I made an unusually good landing, but there was noone there to applaud. Every man and jack of the squadron had mysteriously disappeared. After about a minute or so, heads began popping up like bunny rabbits from every hole. Apparently as I had pressed my foot on the control stick, I had also pressed both triggers, and the entire airfield had been sprinkled with bullets. Very wisely, the ground crew dived as one man for the nearest ditch.


obelixtim  (D 84)

Nov 27, 2011, 11:14 PM
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Re: [pchapman] Grahame Donald - Sopwith Camel story [In reply to] Can't Post

 OMG. The wings were loose!!!. As well!!.

I wonder if he really thought people would swallow this load of BS, but I suppose he had to stick with it once he'd started.

Machine gunning your own airfield would need a good excuse..... I guess it got him off a charge.



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