24.07.1943 13th Reconnaissance Squadron/7th PRG, P-38 Lightning F5A-3, 42-12781, Cpt. O’Bannon
Operation: Authorised flight for comparing the performance of Lightning, Mosquito and Spitfire aircraft.
Date: 24th July 1943 Time: 12.45 hours
Unit: 13th Reconnaissance Squadron/7th PRG
Type: Lockheed P-38 Lightning F5A-3
Location: Home Farm, Hatton, Warwickshire
Pilot: Captain Thomas Bringhurst O'Bannon 0659169 USAAF Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Extract from Accident Investigation Branch Report No. W.1605/TMB:
The flight was authorised for the purpose of comparing the performance of Lightning, Mosquito (Sq/Ldr. M.D.S. Hood) and Spitfire aircraft (F/O. A. Glover). It was arranged beforehand that the three aircraft should rendezvous over Benson at 25,000 feet. and would receive orders from the leader on the Mosquito by way of VHF Channel C.
Captain O'Bannon took off in the Lightning at 11.29 hours and made contact with the other two aircraft as arranged. He had difficulty in locating his companion and No.1 in the Mosquito could hear O'Bannon calling before they met but was unable to make out what was said owing to severe interference.
Communications between the Spitfire and Mosquito was loud and clear and it appeared that while O'Bannon's transmission was faulty, he was able to carry out orders given by R/T.
After some difficulty in lining up the Lightning a speed test was run at 25,000 feet. After ten minutes of this the three aircraft turned to starboard and climbed sharply to 30,000 feet. when course was set for base.
The Lightning was now some distance ahead of the other two and as he did not appear to receive a message from No.1 calling him back, the Spitfire went on and caught him up.
When near to base, No.1 ordered a turn to port on to 317 degrees and he got into line by cutting across the turn, O'Bannon who was still very slightly ahead, turned too far and finally straightened out on a course of 350 degrees but as the VHF was so bad No.1 did not attempt to correct him. Just as No.1 was about to order maximum cruising at 30,000 feet he noticed that O'Bannon had dropped a thousand feet, forged ahead and was flying on a course of 330 degrees.
When called on the VHF the Lightning returned to 30,000 feet and a course of 340 degrees.
Maximum cruising for ten minutes was now ordered but O'Bannon appeared to have anticipated the signal as he was already drawing away. By the time the Mosquito had reached maximum speed O'Bannon was 500 yards away, thus making it impossible for No.1 to judge their respective speeds.
The Mosquito pilot then ordered a turn to port on course 160 degrees, O'Bannon was now at about 29,500 feet and he began to turn towards 160 degrees but also lost height slowly and was watched by his companions diving at about 45 degrees until he entered the haze below at 14,000 feet.
No eye witnesses reports of the break up have been secured, but several people on the ground observed the later stages of the descent after the wings and tail assembly had carried away. From the trail of wreckage it is estimated that structural failure occurred at a height of less than 6,000 feet.
Captain Thomas Bringhurst O'Bannon. Initially buried in Brookwood Cemetery. Plot F-2-17, now in Pennsylvania, USA - at request of relatives.