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Mishap Hornet Crew Guessed Wrong

The Navy released the official findings about what caused an F/A-18 Hornet to crash into an apartment complex shortly after takeoff from NAS Oceana in April.  And in rolling out the results, they “buried the lead,” as we say in the news business.

“We have never had a dual, unrelated engine failure in the F/A-18 Hornet,” said Rear Adm. Ted Branch, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, calling the event “extraordinarily unusual.”

“We don’t have a smoking gun, a definitive source of the malfunction.”

As reported in the Virginian-Pilot after 25 seconds of flight, having reached an altitude of 452 feet, the plane started its descent. Pressure on the stick and a favorable gust of wind slowed its fall for a few seconds but, after 50 seconds of flight, the plane was at an altitude of 270 feet and dropping. When it was about 100 feet above the ground, the plane began rolling and yawing, and the pilot was no longer able to control its movement. At 50 feet above the ground, the crew ejected.

Adm. Branch briefed that mishap investigators ruled that the right engine failed at takeoff due to a fuel leak.  The crew felt some thumps and the weapons system officer in the backseat (an instructor) told the pilot (a student) to keep the gear down because he thought they’d blown a tire.  He also told the pilot to push the left engine throttle to full afterburner, but when the pilot complied the afterburner didn’t light.

Branch said that the afterburner probably failed because of a problem with its fuel system, but that it’s impossible to know the exact reason because so much of the jet was destroyed.

“While I recognize that these gaps are less than satisfying, we have very high confidence in the F/A-18 airframe, and in the F404 engine in the legacy Hornet,” Branch said. The Navy has been flying the Hornet for over 30 years, he said, “and we have found it to be an extremely safe and reliable aircraft.”

But the empirical truth is the crew misdiagnosed the cause of the malfunction in that no tires had blown.  Had the pilot raised the gear and jettisoned the drop tank (and let’s assume that would happen inside the field boundary to avoid hurting people or damaging property) he could have kept the airplane airborne with the left engine at military power.

The report said the original malfunction gave the crew about 10 seconds to diagnose the problem and react.  Choose correctly and fly away.  Choose incorrectly and turn an apartment complex into a fiery mass.

As Charlie said to Maverick in the greatest movie ever made, “You made the wrong choice.”

The good news is the crew survived with minor injuries and — a bigger miracle — nobody on the ground was hurt.

Both the pilot and WSO were cleared of any wrongdoing.  Their judgement was ruled reasonable considering all the circumstances they faced and evidence they were dealing with at the time.

So if you think this aviating stuff is easy in the era of high-tech, think again.


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{ 124 comments… read them below or add one }

Hector July 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Are the possible Chinese parts haunting us already?


Prodozul July 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Despite the proof it's still the pilot's fault…


melcyna July 5, 2012 at 12:55 am


from the description and the inquiry's decision to clear them of wrongdoing based on the information known, i don't understand why one would blame the pilot there.


Vaporhead July 5, 2012 at 7:17 am

You guys failed to sense the sarcasm in Prodozul's comment?


Black Owl July 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Just realized it was sarcasm. Can't believe I missed that one…


Mark July 6, 2012 at 5:47 pm

In aviation, it's always the pilot's fault. According to some.


tiger July 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm

In the case of the Air France Airbus it looks like everything was at fault. Weather, crew, plane, systems, the coffee….. total mess.


STGCM(SW) July 11, 2012 at 6:05 pm

How did you determine this? Are you an Aviator qualified in Hornets? If not (and I suspect you're not) then you don't have a credible opinion!


PETER J. July 11, 2012 at 8:01 pm

wow, should we all bow down to you because you think you know more than anyone else. i bet your not a pilot.


Jeffrey July 12, 2012 at 12:09 am

Not if they reacted appropriately. In this case, hind sight, being 20-20, one can determine that in the time they had to assess the situation and be able to perform the dropping of the drop tank, and realizing the tire has not blown, they could not have prevented the outcome. They stayed with the aircraft until the last possible second, to keep injuries to civilians and damage to a minimum, they were correctly ruled not at fault and cleared of any wrong doing. Kudos to the crew. I do not see the sarcasm in your statement. I flew in the Navy and I know there are times when you only have time to pull the ejection handle, let alone have time to assess and make corrections to prevent catastrophic results._


HUtch July 12, 2012 at 11:48 am

The buck stops at the CO's desk, unfortunately, just when a sailor makes a navigation error in a ship and hits something. Whenever you deal with items that are made by man, there is always the chance it will fail, despite what man can do. Let's not second guess this pilot or instructor. Poop happens, and thankfully no one was injured. Everything else can be rebuilt.


steve July 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm

what was he suspose to do.. crawl out on the wing and look to see of the tire was still there??


Zeb July 4, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Shit happens. Thankfully no one was hurt.


Rob July 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Hindsight is 20/20


Rohan July 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Itz time to be careful…………. I don't think its the pilots fault……

Maybe some technical disorder………don't let the fleet shut down !!!


Charley A. July 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Ten seconds is not very much time to diagnose a problem at 200' AGL. That aside, the Air Force probably would have blamed the aircrew for messing up the plane.


Robert Craig III July 12, 2012 at 10:49 am

Did you notice the pilots were cleared of any wrong and not the maintenance crew?


Black Owl July 5, 2012 at 4:51 am

This is another reason why Navy pilots love having 2 engines on board an aircraft instead of 1. The reliability fact is drastically improved. This is the first dual engine failure on a Hornet after many many years of operation. When you're over water, unlike the USAF, that second engine really counts.


Nick July 5, 2012 at 5:09 am

Not sure if trolling, but er, this plane crashed.


Tartan69 July 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

Nick you missed Black Owl's point entirely


Riceball July 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Despite that, the Navy has a had a pretty long record of operating single engined jet aircraft, including but not limited to the A-4, A-7, & F-8.


Black Owl July 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Yep, then we switched to dual engine jets for a very good reason and after many years of experience.


blight_ July 5, 2012 at 3:49 pm

The people who flew naval aviation in VN as pilots are by now old enough to have ascended to the top of the food chain. I imagine opposition would have been more vociferous to -C if single engine had been deemed unreliable.


ghostwhowalksnz July 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Modern engines are much more reliable. The navy didnt switch to twin engines they just reduced the number of aircraft types they flew.
The real advantage comes from dual and separate engines like the Tomcat … and the russian fighters. Even the F16 size Mig 19 goes this way

Sir Sapo July 7, 2012 at 10:10 pm

We've already been over this, and modern single engine fighters have essentially the same mishap rate as twins such as the Hornet. And it doesn't matter if you're over land or over water, in a high performance jet fighter, you're going to eject rather than land in a field if you have that catastrophic of a problem.

Also there are plenty of scenarios where a problem with one engine necessitates ejection, even if you still have the second motor working. Not to mention if a failing engine frags its partner…


BajaWarrior July 9, 2012 at 2:09 am

Whoa, too much common sense and reality in this post!


AOgunnner57 July 12, 2012 at 8:34 am

As an x navy aviation tech on an aircraft for over 20+ years, I had the opportuniity to see the effects of the single vs dual engine mishaps and the ratio was unreal. anyone doing bluewater ops with single engine craft would be nuts. Lots of miles between airports in the middle of the pacific ocean. kudos to the pilots for their ability to think fast. These jets are man made and they will break nomatter how good we think we are.


BlackOwl18E July 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Too much common sense and reality in this post.


Vaporhead July 5, 2012 at 7:21 am

A fuel leak? I have a hard time understanding that. Obviously I'm not an investigator there, but I think it's more plausible that the engines suffered a unrecovereable surge, specially right after takeoff. Does the F18 have FADECS to figure out what state the engines were at?


Vet Framer T/S July 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I don’t believe the legacy’s do, but I know for a fact the Supers do. They caused a lot of problems in the early days.


Sean Dione July 5, 2012 at 8:35 am

From the article, this comment was made:
As Charlie said to Maverick in the greatest movie ever made, “You made the wrong choice.”
CORRECTION: Charlie did not say that to Maverick, Viper did.
Did anyone ever watch that movie???? Inexcusable.


Mastro July 5, 2012 at 8:53 am

NOT the greatest movie ever-

The climax has the CV lose its catapults so Maverick has to fight alone- I know its "Hollywood"- but it actually makes the CV look like a lousy system.

Oh- the F14 really shouldn't play Sopwith camel with F5's-A4 types- but Zoom and Boom them- but again- Hollywood

The most realistic part of the film was when the F14 lost power- which it did way too often with its first s^%$ engines.


Scott July 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm

"You made a bad choice" was the actual line…. And yes, it was from Viper.


Scott July 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm


Not sure if the above is legit (accurate) or not…. But now I have a perfectly good reason to watch Top Gun again…. and listen to the fly by as loud as possible.


blight_ July 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Re "That's a big gamble

with a $ million plane."

I remember hearing 30 million back in the day…Wikipedia is calling it at 38M in 1998 dollars (as does military.com).

Guess it may not be completely reliable. This transcript was put together by people listening to the movie itself (and the alternative is retrieving scripts, which might be inaccurate if people ad lib parts or say lines differently).


TMB July 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Since we're geeking out about Top Gun of all movies: The quote from the movie was $30 million. Charlie was an astrophysicist, not an accountant. Take her ballpark rounding plus inflation and you get your $38 million since the movie was made in 1986, not 1998.

sailor64 July 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Additioanlly, he did not say "you made the wrong choice" He(Viper) said "You can extend an escape. You made a bad choice."


Stan July 5, 2012 at 8:46 am

How about some sensors in the tires?


Tartan69 July 5, 2012 at 9:21 am

^ THIS! Some cars have had these for decades…why can't billion dollar airplanes?


Smeghead July 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Actually, most cars haven't had sensors for decades.

It's true that TPMS in its currently-mandated form includes a sensor on the inside of the tyre that actually monitors pressure and reports wirelessly back to the car, but that's a fairly new system.

Prior to that, the pressure monitoring system on most cars was an "indirect" system that didn't actually have a pressure sensor, but looked for the side-effects of low tyre pressure via the (otherwise unrelated) sensors used for ABS.

When a tyre starts to go down, the reduced pressure causes it to shrink a little. Its circumference gets smaller, so at any given speed that tyre will rotate faster than the others to keep up.

What the old system does is use the ABS sensors that look at wheel rotation rates to detect the side-effect. If a tyre is rolling at higher RPM than all of the others for any significant length of time, then it's very likely that the air pressure is low (as opposed to a locked wheel under braking, which would be a short-term event).

Anyway, I digress and agree; aircraft probably should have pressure sensors in their tyres.


Back_Home_in_Indiana July 12, 2012 at 8:39 am

Everything added means extra weight. The sensor benefits have to be justified by the added system weight. [More weight burns more fuel, less payload]


Fred July 12, 2012 at 9:54 am

I would have to question why the instructor thought a tire blew out. Why would a tire blow after being airborn?


blight_ July 12, 2012 at 10:29 am

It can be partially ameliorated by replacing parts in a fairly regular scheme, and getting them checked/refurbished/replaced at a depot, rather than running something until it's close to the point of failure, which is where a TPMS would come into play.


VGul149 July 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm

"But the empirical truth is the crew misdiagnosed the cause of the malfunction in that no tires had blown. "

How did they determine the tire had not blown. I thought I read in the incident report that no evidence could be found because everything was destroyed in the crash. Did some new evidence or witness come available?

Read more: http://defensetech.org/2012/07/04/mishap-hornet-c…


TMB July 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm

If it was just a blown tire, then the plane wouldn't have crashed - unless a tire blew AND the engines crapped out at the same time. The sound they thought was a blown tire was most likely what brought the plane down.


kbshuf July 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm

There has been at least one incident of a blown tire on takeoff, fodding an F-18 engine, causing catastrophic engine failure. The Blue Angels lost one in Nevada several years back during a routine flight before practice. The guy who punched out is a friend of mine.


Guest July 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Good answer. Look at what happen to the Concord on take off.


aogunner57 July 12, 2012 at 8:39 am

I would hope they were still sitting in the cockpit when they heard the loud thump. Kinda like when you blow a tire on your auto. Oops! I forgot some people don't hear anything but the radio.


Dale Swanson July 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

The complexity of our systems makes accidents like these the playground for those who know less than - not enough. Sometimes it's a singular failure or error, more often when one of the millions of flights flow each year goes south, it's a combination or cascade of them. The training of crews and maintenance personnel, the QC processes, supervision and repetitive checks and more seldom allow a singular malfunction or error to cause catastrophe. Try as we might, naval aviation is a dangerous business for aircrews, ground crews and sometimes for those around them. Those who always seek first to place blame, call names and issue insults without specific knowledge, training or understanding make fools of themselves and do those who serve a great disservice. No one is harder on the survivors than themselves, their peers and superiors. As bystanders and those not in the know we should be thankful no one on the ground was hurt and that the crew is safe and that as always, something good will come from this. The Navy will do its best to make whole those who lost their homes and belongings and the rest of us should watch what comes out of our mouths lest it show off for the world to see, our lack of common sense and rational thought.


ghostwhowalksnz July 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Very good points. There is no blame needed, finding causes helps all that fly in the future.


RGCARTER July 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Very well stated. Aviation is a dangerous "game" but there is many checks and balances in place to make it safer. It is far more dangerous to drive to the airport then it is to fly somewhere. Airspeed, Altitude and ideas…. in flying you must always have 2 of the three… this crew didn't. but they did a good job with what they had and no life was lost. Good Job Guys!


Val Valentine July 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm

nice right up, thanks Dale…


Val Valentine July 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm

duh…write not right!


Lou July 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm



aogunner57 July 12, 2012 at 8:44 am

Well said.


John R. July 12, 2012 at 9:20 am

There is an old adage that say's "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt" I rest my case.


gary July 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I with you on this Dale. Well said bro


kski July 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Still Shit happens.


F_18Texrep July 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Well said Dale. Those of us in the business know better. I'm sure they got all the data from the CSFIRS/DFIRS recorder and made the correct determination. As a side note… Top Gun was a joke


Bob Greene July 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm

From a former "Tin Can" sailor, I agree Top Gun was a joke, but then all movies about and having to do with the military are usually jokes.


Val Valentine July 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm

maybe to you; however, it (Top Gun) was a swan song to/for 'Puke' Cunningham (before his prison stint) as this was how he met his wife at the 'O' Club at Miramar….


aogunner57 July 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

It was hollywood.


fxdidan July 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Having worked on F-14's,I can say without a doubt that aircraft always have some kind of fuel leak,sometimes bad enough not to let he a/c fly,I've seen with small leaks that no matter what you do you what to rip your hair out.Sound more like they had a failure of a valve in the fuel system.


Black Owl July 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Explain this to me: the F/A-18 has two engines, but it can go toe-to-toe in a knife fight with any single engine aircraft of comparable generation. It can still outrun and outmaneuver the F-35 and it is one of the least maintenance intensive fighter jets in the world. Aside from that a bird strike would take out only one engine, not both. There have been instances when dual engine aircraft have taken damage and were forced to rely on the other to make it home. There have still been incidents of engines flaming out or failing and the second saving the jet and the pilot from an ejection. I don't think it's a matter of weight and complexity so much as it is design.


Atomic Walrus July 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm

If you're lucky, you hit one bird. However, birds tend to fly in flocks. A lot of bird strike incidents hit both engines.

Redundancy, weight, and complexity are all design issues. The challenge is always to hit the optimum trade-off. You're using a hand-waving argument that redundancy is the critical factor based on a couple of anecdotes. If you want to do a proper systems engineering analysis, you're going to have to attach numbers to everything. How much survivability does redundancy buy? How much extra weight results from it? (this'll affect cost, performance, and range - the last 2 will also impact survivability.) How does it affect complexity, which translates to unit cost and operational cost? This is not a simple problem, and there's not a clear-cut answer in favour of twin engines.


blight_ July 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Conversely, would it have been cheaper to miniaturize the F-119 engine design to support a JSF-sized platform on two smaller engines? Would it have made sense, or would going for the bigger F-135/F-136 made "more sense"; depending on how you juggle your preferences?


Sgt C July 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Two engines with the lift fan would probably make it completely unworkable. They have enough problems with the clutch. Imagine if there were a combining gearbox. And one motor probably wouldn't allow STOVL ops, so its weight and complexity would be a waste. If the B were its own thing sharing avionics only it might be workable for the A and C.


blight_ July 12, 2012 at 8:07 am

Didn't think about it that way. The single engine had to be powerful enough for STVOL if they wanted a common engine across three related platforms.

BajaWarrior July 9, 2012 at 2:14 am

I have got to know, where do you get your information?


blight_ July 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm

[...]He also told the pilot to push the left engine throttle to full afterburner, but when the pilot complied the afterburner didn’t light.
[...]Had the pilot raised the gear and jettisoned the drop tank (and let’s assume that would happen inside the field boundary to avoid hurting people or damaging property) he could have kept the airplane airborne with the left engine at military power.

Not sure how the latter would work out, if they discovered that the afterburner didn't light (the former)? Perhaps I missed something.


Chris July 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

When you lose an engine… You want to clean up the drag as much as possible to reduce sink or drift-down. There is a checklist that every multi-engine pilot knows by heart:

IDENTIFY (dead leg, dead engine)
VERIFY (pull throttle on dead engine… no change? thats your dead engine)
FIX or FEATHER (whatever the situation permits for… in the case of the F/A-18 that crashed they should of shut the engine down)

I don't fly jets, just turboprops… but I'm sure it is something akin to this.


Decksawash July 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm

” The Navy released the official findings…”


Nope, the two official USN investigation boards are still ongoing (as stated during this briefing).

This USN briefing was basically an interim report and public affairs update on the mishap.

Not much detail in this brief briefing.

No mention of what cockpit indications the aircrew saw — fire-lights, engine-gauges, smoke & fumes, etc.

Were birdstrikes ruled out ? Why ?

A fuel-leak is prominently specified as causing the first engine failure — how’d they figure that out while saying the crash/fire destroyed most everything ?

The junior officer/pilot had very little time to analyze that critical situation, but sounds like the aircraft got behind-the-power-curve… with the remaining engine still producing enough thrust to stay airborne.

Suspect the real final-report will read rather differently.



Pappa51 July 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Has anyone looked at bird ingestion. I seem to remember an Air Bus that ended up in the Hudson for that reason. All the same the pilots got to go home and the home owners get new homes to go to. The good thing no lives were lost…


Val Valentine July 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm

flown by good ol' 'Sully' Sullivan, a former AFA F-4 Phantom driver, yahoo Sully!


Ben Round July 12, 2012 at 10:21 am

Asking "has anyone looked at" after a flight mishap board is absolutely ludicrous. There is no more thorough and unbiased body of investigation in the world.


Jayson July 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm

BEST movie soundtrack ever to go along with it.


@LouG18 July 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm

On the F/A-18, the landing gear will not go up with the right engine secured. The right engine powers the Hyd 2 system which raises and lowers the gear. There is a way to emergency lower the gear, but no way to bring it up. Even if the crew wanted to raise the gear, they would not have been able to.


RGCARTER July 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Even if the engine was secured, it was probably still "windmilling" and therefore turning the hydro pump… if that was the case, they had hydro power from that system.


@LouG18 July 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Negative, windmilling the engine in the Hornet will not give you the Hyd system back, even at high speeds (350 knots +). The engine does not get enough rpm from windmilling to support the Hyd system. So, they would have not had Hyd power. Don't take my word for it, read it for yourself in the F/A-18A/B/C/D NATOPS flight manual, page V-15-3. Available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/81431510/A1-F18AC-NFM-0…


Ed M. July 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Did accident investigations on F-4's "in the day" and had a dual engine failure once. Was a fuel system failure, …. "feed tank" (low level float valve) was empty without indication, McDonnell built the F-4, … and original F-18's; maybe a "feed tank" failure?? (if the F-18 has one, .??.). dk.


dubweiser101 July 6, 2012 at 5:55 pm

This is what happens when you drink and fly.


blight_ July 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Who, the student pilot who trained in a trainer jet before flying a legacy hornet or the instructor?


aogunner57 July 12, 2012 at 8:52 am

Your funny…..Not!


Ike869 July 7, 2012 at 10:49 am

Just curious: Why is no one questioning whether bio/green fuel was possibly the cause? With the statement "never had dual engine failure before" and the push for military 'green' fuels, it seems a possible cause that is glaringly lacking from any analysis, particularly in official reports.


blight_ July 7, 2012 at 11:45 am

Interesting possibility, but I didn't think they'd rolled green fuel out to the fleet yet. That said, green fuel was probably filtered and distilled like any other petroleum mix before going into jet fuel.


Back_Home_in_Indiana July 12, 2012 at 8:52 am

I was a ground-pounder at Oceana in the 80's, Norfolk in the 90's.
They use JP5 {High Flashpoint} and had JP4 for transit birds and the T2s/F5s/T-38s in VF-43 {East coast version of Top Gun }.
JP5 is also the fuel of choice on board ship. Its NOT your standard Jet A airliner fuel.


Luke Atmadik July 9, 2012 at 12:31 am

2 pilots screwed the pooch here. The rest is politics….


Val Valentine July 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

yep, right Luke baby…like you've flown F/A-18's and have adequate time in them???


Dump July 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Just give the NATOPS instructors a 30 minute session with you in the simulator to see how many ways there are for you to test out your superb Halo skills.


D Flomerfelt July 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Why are no questions as to how a large apartment complex was allowed to be built so close to a NAS. Here on Whidbey Is. the county has done everything possible to prevent high density housing in flight path zones.


aogunner57 July 12, 2012 at 9:03 am

This is a direct result of our Brac commision on base realignment and closures from the nineties.They had a perfect base for all Eastcoast Navy jets and gave it away. NAS Cecil Field in florida did not have an encroachment problem. It already had new hangars and support facilities for the F/18 and other aircraft. This was the works of past Pres. Bill Clinton.


R Torrey July 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I remember a dual eng flame out on a E2C back in the 70's caused by dirty Fuel nozzles was corrected in less than 5 months


Jim July 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Discussions about probable cause and it is interesting hearing the comments from the different levels of experience. One thing I learned in 30 years of naval aviation maintenance concerning mishap boards is to just keep your mouth shut and comply with the requests from the board. Seems the most speculating comes from those that understand the least. Trust the process, it works, this is how improvements in naval aviation are made. One primary function of the board is to determine cause so that it can be used as a learning tool to prevent future mishaps.


Dick East July 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I am a former Navy F4 Driver. Let's not forget that the folks on the ground reported hearing three quick explosions in a row. That would be back seat leaving the aircraft, front leaving the aircraft, and plane hitting the ground. Even though they may not have reacted perfectly , they had the balls to stay with it……….. and try to get it to the water.


Mike McQuiston July 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm

This wouldn't have been nearly as big a deal if the best master jet base on the east coast wasn't shut down nearly 20 years ago and Oceana, surrounded by out of control development and political influence, remained open. I'm surprised there haven't been more accidents there. The BRAC process is a joke, and this accident proves it.


Alabaster July 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm

So right F18 Texrep TopGun was a dam joke, so is this article. Trying hard, too hard, to lay some sensationalism on the pilots, they "guessed" wrong…Guessed? THEY DON'T HAVE TIME TO GUESS. Then later, trying to come off as smart, "but the empirical truth is they misdiagnosed…" What empirical "truth" is that? what YOU saw, what you think YOU saw, what you heard, what you think YOU heard? and I thought they "guessed" did they "guess" or misdiagnose smart guys? NEITHER eggheads!, they didn't have time! 10 seconds and all you experts could do better


Aogunner57 July 12, 2012 at 9:08 am

Thank you Alabaster for your comment. Makes more since than all the others combined.


Eagle July 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm

arm chair pilots all!! they did the correct thing at the correct time…no second guessing including whoever authored this piece….you just do not know.
Two ejections


K Whitlow July 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm

The most dangerous part of a flight , is the takeoff . But…. with both engines at max power, and on engine failed, it should have still climbed and given them time to figure out the problem. I think both engines failed or more probably one engine was not putting out full power . KW


Wild Harold July 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm

10 seconds, I wish all you arm chair pilots and accident investigator to take 10 seconds and see if you can do anything as critical as what they were face with. I bet it takes you more than 10 seconds to wipe your _ _ _. These two brave airmen did the best they could with the time that they had to do it in. Brovo Zulu the these two guys and I am thankful that they are ok and no one got hurt or killed on the ground.


534457 July 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm

As a Naval Aviation Safety Officer (retired) I can assure you a thorough investigation was done. In the safety process, the Navy goes thru extreme means to get to the bottom of the mishap. All involved are immune fm legal action (although there can be a separate JAG invest.) & the truth is paramount for future safety. Its fun to conjecture but most of us don't know squat

What an idiotic statement about the pilot guessing wrong. Obviously the writer doen't have a clue what it's like to be in a Navy cockpit. Bogs.


534457 July 11, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I guess I forgot females fly too. Nice edit Military,com.


sktb5 July 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm

This article is an utter disgrace. The author (who wrote anonymously, for obvious reasons) claims "Had the pilot raised the gear and jettisoned the drop tank . . . he could have kept the airplane airborne with the left engine at military power." Where exactly did he get this info? This was a heavy FA-18D (likely with 4 pylons) — there is no guarantee that it would climbed away at MIL even if with the gear up and no tank. And even if that is true, it takes some cajones to publicly second guess two guys that are facing a life and death situation. As if that wasn't bad enough, he went on to make a bigger ass of himself by misquoting the movie — very professional.

Nice work, man. Leave the armchair quarterbacking to the people that know something about flying strike fighters.


Michelle July 12, 2012 at 12:01 am

obviously the people on here being critical of the author and the raising of the gear and pickling of the drop tank have not read the official report, like the author has.


Meathead July 12, 2012 at 12:22 am

As a Maintenance Control Chief, I can state emphatically: If you continuously put aircraft in the air, the odd are that sooner or later one will fall out of the sky. Every effort humanly possible goes into NOT having one fall out of the sky. There are checks, checks and rechecks taken to ensure a safe mission for the aircrew. Given the parameters that the aircrew was working in, they deserve a "SH" for their actions.


sktb5 July 12, 2012 at 1:15 am


This is the article that includes the leaked official MISREP. It does include a statement that it would have been physically possible to keep the jet flying had they jettisoned the tank and cleaned up. That is surprising given that the left motor was was only operating at 83% of normal MIL thrust, but I'll give the author that one. Nonetheless, the MISREP does NOT use the words "wrong" or "incorrect" anywhere when discussing the aircrew's actions — those are the author's judgments. Since there is no byline, we don't know who the author is; I'm assuming he doesn't wear a pair of wings, however. So he should probably leave the judgments to the mishap board, skip the movie quotes, and just report the news.


aznavy July 12, 2012 at 1:35 am

Who was in command of the aircraft, the pilot or the NFO?


Stew July 12, 2012 at 1:46 am

Damn right think again! Navy pilots have the best training….period. That crew acted effectively and quickly. Thank goodness the Big Brass did not try to blame aircrew for mishap. Go Navy!


F18SystemsFacts July 12, 2012 at 6:51 am

Since no reporter added their name to this, I can't send this directly. Since you felt the need to comment on the decisions of 2 aircrew inexplicably falling out of the sky, I thought it only fair you actually do some research on the systems of the Hornet. You imply that a "correct decision" would have resulted in the aircraft flying away and make a cute reference to Top Gun. In your exhaustive research of this article did you come across the fact, that had the crew correctly diagnosed the problem, it's likely nothing would have changed? A catastrophic right engine failure, as described here, would have resulted in a loss of hydraulic pressure from the system associated with that engine. Gear retraction and extension are driven off the hyd system that is powered by the right engine. With this scenario, it is most likely the gear would not have come up at all, and the result would have been the same. The only chance at bringing the landing gear up was enough residual pressure in the accumulators to open and close all the doors and raise the gear. It's rather annoying that you report this information incorrectly as "fact" without doing your due process.


Vern July 12, 2012 at 7:35 am

One second, it was a dual engine failure, but if they would have dumped the drop tank and went wheels up, they could have kept in the air with military power? Really? Is there a third engine somewhere I don't know about? I missed something.


asper67 July 12, 2012 at 7:47 am

Did anybody THANK the ALSS branch? Everybody else has a back up system;
PR's the LAST to let you down!!!!


DBlair July 12, 2012 at 7:58 am

Reopen NAS Cecil Field.


J Haigler July 12, 2012 at 8:02 am

just so you know, the right motor is the one that drives the hydraulic pump that is used to raise and lower the gear. If they didn't have the right engine, they couldn't raise the gear. Second guessing them after everyone has had months to think about it isn't fair to them. As it is, they waited WAY too long to eject (50 feet?!) trying to save the plane and put it somewhere else. I would love to know who wrote this story.


J Haigler July 12, 2012 at 8:16 am

I think that info was posted earlier.. I didn't read that first. The point is still valid, however…


John Valarinos July 12, 2012 at 8:35 am

There was an incident in Canada with exactly the same engine configuration after the crash. The afterburner nozzle of one engine was wide open and the other was fully closed. A trend ?? If the pilot suspected only a blown tire, both engines would have been at Military with both afterburner nozzles fully closed. As for the crash zone, that was an issue during the BRAC closures several years ago. More incompetence in government….. Oceana was kept open and Cecil Field was closed. Cecil had a good crash zone, room to grow and was an alternate for the Space Shuttle. Politics ?? Ya THINK ???


John Valarinos July 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

Obviously the author of this article has no knowlege of this, or any other aircraft and likely discussed witha government "spokesperson" who also didn't have a clue. This information is typical of politically correct reporting. The biggest problem with crash investigations is they don't include any "Hands On" people in their investigations, just a bunch of Engineers with a bunch of theories.
I agree, Cecil should be re-opened. The City of Jacksonville shot it down under a Mayor whose family bought up a bunch of real estate in the area after Cecil closed. Of course the jet noise would have decrease their chance for development and reduced their chances of making a killing on the development and sale of the real estate that was bought for next to nothing. The Navy should enforce imminent domain and take it back. After all, there's still not much out there and the Federal Government is the biggest tennant at Cecil. By the way, I live close to Cecil and would be personally impacted by "The Sound of Freedom".


Grandpa Dickie July 12, 2012 at 8:56 am

I got a few thousand hours with Navy pilots. They're the greatest as I'm still alive at 77 in spite of some hairy flights, always mechanical problems, as it's not like you can pull off the road and look under the hood. Any time you come out of a flight alive, it's a good flight.


HUtch July 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

Hey folks, stop and count to ten. Just enough time to pull the eject handles and yell "Oh, poop!" And at 50 ft above ground level? I am go glad they were not injured seriously. They'll live to fly again, I hope. Write this one off as TS.


Bob Lunny July 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I thought there was an idiot light and warning alarm to tell you of engine failure


sktb5 July 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I don't like his article, but just to set the record straight, the reporter was paraphrasing the Navy's MISREP when he mentioned retracting the gear and keeping it airborne. The implication was that the crew could have sucked up the gear while the right motor was still spooling down and HYD 2 still had some pressure. The investigating officer, while stating that it was physically possible, didn't think that even more-experienced aircrew would have necessarily correctly diagnosed the problem and taken those actions in the short time they had. So despite the author's tone here -which I don't like-we can't hit him on systems knowledge: it's right out of the MISREP.


blight_ July 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Mig-19's are old. MiG & Sukhoi don't have single-engine jets in the works, just twin-engined ones. Either a vote of confidence on single-engine designs, a recognition of inferior Russian engine technology, or the things they want their jets to do can't be done on two engines.


Chuck July 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm

And she is a civilian so you do NOT salute her. (I only throw that in because I always thought it was a funny line. Why do they make a point of this fact in the movie?)


Atomic Walrus July 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Could also have something to do with the fact that both MiG and Sukhoi are working off an aerodynamic configuration developed by TsAGI for a twin-engined aircraft. That's one of the reasons that the Flanker and Fulcrum are so similar. The Russians like the spacing between the twin engines for stores carriage, the extra lift generated by the aft body, and the increased effectiveness of thrust vectoring.


blight_ July 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I'm surprised TsAGI still acts the same way it used to during the Soviet era….


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