Sunken Gulfstream GV photo - your opinions

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The pictures of the Gulfstream GV with its landing-gear apparently sunk into soft tarmac generated a huge response – many thanks to everyone who got in touch.

Observers were split fairly equally between those who thought it was real, those who believed it was a hoax, and those who were not sure either way but had good stories to tell of similar incidents.

Just when it seemed the hoax-favourers, backed by some degree of evidence, were winning the day, there was a new development when a contributor to www.pprune.org claimed here that he knew what had happened. But it is not a clincher.

Bill Kaufman was first to contact us, attaching greatly magnified Photoshop images that do indeed seem to suggest that at least one of the pictures is doctored. There does seem to be clear evidence of retouching around the area where the wheel is buried in the Tarmac.

Leighton Mosese, a private pilot in New Zealand, says much the same, and so does Michael Phillips. Chris in Canada points out, like several of you, that the Tarmac around the wheel is suspiciously undisturbed.

But many of you are not so sure, some of you suggesting that no-one would spend the amount of time needed to create such an elaborate hoax, and others describing similar incidents. Daniel Mann included this picture of a US Navy aircraft (Douglas A-3 Skywarrior???).

us navy fighter in tarmac

Daniel and John Bell in the USA also cited this embarrassing incident 

And Gareth Ibberson in the UK sent in this picture of a Sabreliner in Montreal.

sabreliner in trouble

Daniel Restrepo of Industrial Aeronautica in Colombia suggests the Tarmac around the GV in the original picture has not melted, but there is a “void beneath the asphalt” probably caused by leaking underground water pipes.

Blair Nelson, a consultant at Bain & Co in Chicago also thinks that might have happened, as does Chris Barrow in the UK. And an anonymous correspondent who claims to live in the state where the incident happened says the phenomenon of collapsing ground is well-known there.

But Stephen Bigg, who says he is a retired operations director of Phoenix SkyHarbor International – a part of the world where they know all about extreme temperatures – suggests that Tarmac can indeed soften as the picture implies. And other respondents say damage caused by spilled fuel can produce similar results.

Tom Perry, former CEO of Avion Flight Centre in Texas saw temperatures there of 105˚F+ reports seeing a Citation IV leave ruts in hot Tarmac and notes that both that aircraft and the GV have relatively small landing gear for a lot of weight.

Paul Suter at Van Nuys, California wrote to say that the aircraft in the picture is actually at Van Nuys “on its own undercarriage and looking undamaged”.

He also tells a story of a Gulfstream IV which sank into the Tarmac there last year and, he says, was removed only when the pilot used high engine power to get out – unfortunately badly damaging a new Cessna behind him.

“Peter” mailed with the story of when he was in the crew on a BelgiumExel Boeing 767 which was badly damaged at Zanzibar when a temporary Tarmac patch in the runway to cover up more extensive repair work disintegrated.

So, the jury remains out on the GV – we are still making enquiries.