Skip to comments.2013 F/A-18 crash: Out of fuel, out of time and one chance to land
Posted on 04/12/2014 5:47:40 AM PDT by Timber Rattler
The aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower was finally in sight.
The pilot of the F/A-18 Super Hornet hurriedly flipped switches and pushed levers. The aviator in the backseat leaned forward, straining to see the flight deck floating in the distance. The jets right engine had locked up, its landing gear jammed, the main fuel tank almost empty.
The pilot made some quick calculations. He had 15,500 pounds of fuel in his tanks, enough to return to the Eisenhower and make six passes at the ship.
Landing in nearby Kandahar was a more prudent option, but that would likely have meant several days or more awaiting repairs. The Eisenhowers air wing commander had decided earlier not to put a maintenance detachment in Afghanistan a cost-saving measure pilots perceived as a signal they should attempt to divert back to the ship whenever possible.
About the story: This report was based on an investigation into the April 8, 2013, crash of an F/A-18 Super Hornet. Names and other identifying details were redacted from the report, which was obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through a Freedom of Information Act request. The report cited questionable decision making by the pilot but did not recommend disciplinary action.
(Excerpt) Read more at stripes.com ...
Seems to me that the root of the original chain of bad decisions was the failure to station a Maintenance Det in Afghganistan to save money and to encourage aviators in trouble to try and make it back to their carriers. So, here they lost a $50 million Super Hornet and nearly their lives because of financial shenanigans in Washington.
Seems to me that our government’s main mission is to provide defense for our country. It follows that we should have people in place,from the Commander-in-Chief on down,with military experience. This is vital,but doesn’t seem to be the case this time.
Two seat Hornet = Marines or a Growler. Carrier aviation is a high risk occupation. Running out of gas is always a pilot error.
Why doesn’t our govt ever try to save money by, say, cutting handouts to the slimy takers of society - those born on BOTH sides of our southern border???
“The jet had flown more than 400 miles, two-thirds of the way back to the ship, when the aviators noticed another problem.”
Glad their safe. I don’t blame it on anybody. I was a green shirt for a month ... not long by anybodies standard, but I don’t question their decision. If both made it back alive, then It was a good decision in my book.
<> Running out of gas is always a pilot error.<>
You don’t know wtf you are talking about.
I highly recommend reading the article. If nothing else, it will save you making a fool of yourself the next time.
I couldn’t read the rest of this. You’re spot on.
The incident could have resulted in loss of crew, all consequent to a major command error in logistics, which I can only assume extends all the way up the chain back to the Pentagon since they only assigned blame on the pilot. They simply chose to ignore the problem.
The proof is the lack of disciplinary action.
Why am I not surprised...
Footnote: At least some still care enough
THat’s not what he’s really saying. He’s saying the pilot might not likely fly a high performance jet for the military anymore. Which is more than likely true. At least that’s how I read his comment.
Unexpected turbulence is sometimes a polite way of saying “he screwed up”. Doesn’t have to be the case, but the Navy frowns upon pilots who lose their aircraft.
F/A 18’s don’t have any gas.
How many aircraft did John McCain lose?
You dont know wtf you are talking about.
I had a friend with whom I had flown as his co-pilot. He ran out of fuel, tried an autorotation to the sea, hit hard, aircraft broke up and everyone was killed. While on a routine training mission in Okinawa he was diverted to an outlining island for a passenger pickup. When the passenger was boarding the crew chief was heard to say, "Hurry up we are low on fuel".
Classic pilot error, right? Mostly, yes. However, the squadron commander demanded "drill team" precision and punctuality for each aircraft meeting launch and recovery times, even down to requiring the senior pilot on a multi-plane launch to do a countdown to synchronized rotor brake release. The commander's other insistence was that "You will make your 'chock time' (return to base)."
Without that command pressure, probably the pilot would have taken the delay and refueled. Yes, the pilot in command is responsible. However, the command authority has the responsibility to create an environment that promotes wise decisions on the part of the pilots.
Second incident. Another friend was possibly the last US military man killed in the Vietnam war. In 1975, during the fall of Saigon, his helicopter carrier was off-shore receiving the fleeing South Vietnamese helos full of escaping military and civilians.
The Vietnamese Hueys would land and unload their passengers. If there was time, radios and other useful component were yanked out before the Huey was shoved over the side due to insufficient deck space. My buddy was flying "plane guard", orbiting to one side of the ship to rescue anyone in a helo that did not have enough fuel to make it safely to the flight deck.
He had been flying for 12-13 hours, refueling when necessary. Night had fallen and he had tried to refuel again, only to be bumped by an incoming Huey flying on fumes. He continues to orbit, then one time, they did not come around.
Disorientation at night over water?
Flame out after fuel exhaustion?
Who knows. But please, DO NOT call that "pilot error".
You don’t know what you’re talking about. Unless the ARB can prove the jet was broken in some way, the pilot gets the blame for running out of gas.
Hey numbnuts, read the column.
I count two pilot errors, that might have been the result of poor training. I also count two command errors. So, who is at fault? The command authority, the training system, or the pilot?
My take? I am appalled at the command decisions and the lack of pilot knowledge of the aircraft due to lack of training.
A good landing is when the pilot and all passengers can walk away.
A great landing is when you can use the airplane again.
They should have the team, which is investigating MH370, solve the investigation...
Seems the root of the prob was the pilot didn’t want 2 days of maint and lost a zillion dollar aircraft!
Enough to be a reverse ace.
McCain didn't lose any aircraft; he knew where they were all the time. However, he did crash a few, had an accident, and had one shot down while he was on board.
Most likely JP4.
Read the damn article!
See.......space shuttle......Challenger. Same deal.
“Running out of gas is always a pilot error.”
“I highly recommend reading the article. If nothing else, it will save you making a fool of yourself the next time. “
I’m not a pilot nor have any expertise with aviation as I was a mere M-16 operator while working for the Big Green Machine way back in the day. However, having said all this, just want to say that it’s my understanding that jet engines don’t burn gas. Just saying, lol :)
I understand the professional dings that the guy has taken (assuming that his name is not McCain), but for those that read the article, his questionable decisions were not related to fuel starvation.
I'm confused. If he was choosing between landing on a carrier, I would presume that meant he was over the ocean. Yet Kandahar is in land-locked Afghanistan, hundreds of miles from any sea. How could it be considered "nearby?"
If a maverick black hole from the Andromeda galaxy sweeps out of the mysterious dark unknown of deepest space and into our Solar System, slamming unpredictably into this pale blue dot of Earth, in the moments before everyone is annihilated, one or more commanders will most likely be asked that most standard of military questions: “What did YOU do to prevent this?”
I'd be asking some hard questions to the air wing commander about not having assets at KAH to recover his aircraft. Seems like a no brainer to me.
I worked with an older guy whose son was a Delta pilot, and had been a Naval aviator for several years prior.
He visited the office quite often, and when asked would say that - no matter how experienced the jet driver - there was always a very great "pucker factor" in carrier landings.
I don’t disagree, but the Navy doesn’t usually work that way.
AKA an "aw crap" moment.
Yeah, I know.
“How many aircraft did John McCain lose?”
....I think you are right. This is a very complex AC but the fouled refuel probe should have been recognized immediately as a danger ...
Yes, and his training would have alerted him to that, if it included this fact. If they didn’t tell him this in training, how is he supposed to know?
Why didn’t you bother to read the article?
..... You got me there, but I can tell you this every plane made has a book on every thing possible to know about that plane. Also all emergency procedures are on laminated cards and are carried by both the pilot and the Guy In Back.
So when the probe failed the G.I.B. should have been going thru those procedures to verify what now works and what does not...[it is easy to second guess them, I do realize they were under extreme stress but you're right the training should have kicked in]
“....a $50 million Super Hornet and nearly their lives because of financial shenanigans in Washington.”
See.......space shuttle......Challenger. Same deal.
The primary cause of the Challenger disaster was . . . Sheer Bad Luck.
I was in KAF in 2009 and we had a Hornet divert there with a malfunction. The USN didn’t have a maintenance detachment there at the time but a team was flown from the ship to fix the jet two days later. Not ideal but then again it was the smart play.
The aircraft was from VFA-103, a USN E-model.
Really reading that story..its pilot screw up on top of pilot screw up on top of pilot screw up...he really didnt seem to know his aircraft systems and procedures at all
NO! Morton Thiokol’s Allan McDonald had refused to sign the launch recommendation over safety concerns. Prior to that launch, visual evidence had raised questions about the segment seals functioning in lowered temps. His professional judgement was overridden by a Thiokol corporate VP vote influenced by NASA bureaucratic pressure.
I would agree they seem to jerk him around on the late divert. .but rule of thumb if you got a problem land at your closest airfield and land on land not the carrier. The pilot made multiple bad calls with putting him that the coffin corner
Command decisions were awful. You could argue that the fear of diverting to Kandahar that had been instilled in the pilots caused the loss of the aircraft.
Poor training and poor command decisions. Kind of scary, don't you think?
Really if you think about is it was a really bad call
He’s near Kandahar when he had the refueling basket stuck on his refueling probe...
...pull the dam basket off...
.... retract the probe....
....inspect the aircraft for damage....
...and if none....
....top up and fly home..
And if the aircraft is damaged landing at Kandahar still the better bet as its closer and it’s not the carrier...
Landing a damaged aircraft on a carrier, besides being harder, and puts the carrier and the people on the carrier at risk.
Landing a damaged aircraft on an airfield is easier ...and just put the freaking dirt at risk.
I suspect that part of what led to this was a Navy mindset about the reach of carrier aviation. A war in a landlocked country hundreds of miles from the sea where we already controlled a number of airbases would not seem a logical choice for carrier operations, absent an agenda.
Sequence of Shuttle Challenger Disaster
Extremely wet, cold Winter.
Technical problems kept Shuttle on pad longer than usual.
Very unusual freezing weather.
Burnthru on SRB ignition as had happened before.
After a few seconds, gasket flowed and resealed as it had numerous times before.
No more problems until throttle-up.
Highest Upper Air Wind Shear ever recorded buffeted Shuttle and rocked the entire stack just as they went to throttle-up.
SSME gimbaled over to correct.
Rocking the stack opened up the previous burnthru.
First Bad Luck:
Extreme high winds at throttle-Up. Without this, burnthru would probably have not reopened.
Second Bad Luck and Primary Cause:
Burnthru was located on the minority portion of the arc opposite the ET (External Tank). If the burnthru had occurred on the ~ 300 degree arc not opposite the ET, the shuttle would have achieved orbit with no problem. The slight loss of thrust from the SRB burnthru would not have been a problem.
It was only sheer bad luck that the burnthru occurred where it did, no other reason.
Actually, yes. The whole space shuttle design that was implemented was a kludge forced on NASA by budget cuts.
The original shuttle concept had both stages recoverable and reusable. No disposable "solid rocket boosters" in that original design at all. All well-behaved, well-known liquid fuel rocket engines.
The Challenger astronauts went to their deaths PRECISELY because of budget cuts.