Pilot Averts Disaster On Accidental Takeoff

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A retired RAF bomber pilot is being hailed a hero after a museum-owned Handley Page Victor, a Cold War nuclear bomber, took off accidentally during an air show in Bruntingthorpe, England in May. Video of the incident came to light this week. The Daily Mail is reporting that the bomber, which hasn't flown in 20 years, was supposed to taxi down the runway as a photo opportunity. For reasons that remain unclear, the unidentified volunteer right seater firewalled the throttles and within a few seconds the Victor was in its natural element. Bob Prothero, 70, a former squadron commander who last slipped the surly bonds in a Victor in the 1980s, was in the left seat and screamed for the engineer to cut the power but the next thing he knew he was back in the saddle again for the "most terrifying nine seconds of my life."

There was a brisk crosswind that day and on takeoff the 75-ton aircraft immediately drifted left, on course for a housing development. Prothero had to decide whether to attempt a go-around in an unmaintained aircraft or put it down. He headed for the grass at the end of the runway and brought it to a stop on the generous overrun, with occupants and aircraft apparently none the worse for wear. "Nobody could really believe what had happened," he told the Daily Mail. " There were people slapping me on the back and congratulating me on not crashing the thing and ruining the day." Britain's Civil Aviation Authority has investigated and decided against charges.