Bravo Zulu – stories from military pilots

Bravo Zulu – stories from military pilots

They say pilots never forget the first time they solo. For 2ndLt. Jeff Davis, an Air Force student aviator assigned to VT-3 at NAS Whiting Field, this saying holds especially true. Halfway into his contact 4401 solo and during level flight in day-VMC conditions, the front canopy of his T-34C shattered. After checking controllability and gathering his thoughts, 2ndLt. Davis contacted the runway duty officer at Brewton Field and made him aware of the problem. He was directed inbound for a precautionary emergency landing.

Despite the wind, noise and unknown cause of the shattered canopy, he made a textbook landing. A post-flight inspection found no evidence of a bird strike or history of canopy problems with this aircraft. 2ndLt. Davis’ on-wing, Lt. Nate Walker, said, “I was very proud of Jeff for remaining calm and reverting to his emergency training.”

Capt. Andrew Clevenger (PIC), Maj. Gerald Caldwell (PAC), and Cpl. Rogan McIntyre (CC) had a No.1 engine rollback while supporting JTF-6 counter-drug support operations in Utah. The UH-1N crew was completing a final visual reconnaissance of an area west of the Wasatch Mountains, 12 miles northeast of Hill AFB. The aircraft had descended from 8,000 feet to 6,000 feet MSL.

While Maj. Caldwell was leveling out at 400 feet AGL and 50 knots, the aircrew heard an engine roll down. Capt. Clevenger opened his pocket checklist to prepare for single engine flight. Maj. Caldwell started emergency procedures and turned toward Hill AFB. This turn at high-pressure altitude increased the power required, and the aircraft descended. He called out the decreasing No. 1 engine instrument readings over ICS. Maj. Caldwell increased the collective to arrest the descent but quickly ran out of power. Capt. Clevenger called for rotor-RPM-full increase over ICS.

Cpl. McIntyre made sure all the passengers were strapped in and ready for an emergency landing. Maj. Caldwell lowered the collective and gained airspeed to reduce the power required and achieved level flight at 100 feet AGL and 60 knots.

Capt. Clevenger scanned the instruments and looked for suitable landing sites. He noticed the No.1 Ng still was at 50 percent and called for manual fuel over the ICS. Maj. Caldwell and Capt. Clevenger then executed manual-fuel procedures, bringing the No.1 engine on-line. The Dash 2 Cobra declared an emergency for the Huey and assisted with radio calls to Hill AFB. The crew landed at Hill AFB.

Post-flight inspection showed a cracked P3 line from an over-tightened P3 air filter. The cracked P3 line caused a valve inside the automatic-fuel-control unit to restrict fuel flow to the engine, resulting in an engine rollback. Manual fuel-control bypasses the automatic-fuel-control unit, allowing the engine to provide full power by manually metering fuel using the throttles.

Superior crew-resource management and skill prevented this emergency from becoming a mishap.

The Bluetails of VAW-121 were in the middle of COMPTUEX aboard USS John F. Kennedy. The last E-2C of the night had been recovered, and the plane handlers backed it onto elevator one. It then would be repositioned to the Hummer hole after the flight deck was cleared.

As the plane handler backed up the E-2, both props were spinning at ground idle, and another yellowshirt was directing an F-14 about 15 feet in front of the E-2. Suddenly, the F-14 spun on AME2 Randy Ackerman and the members of the prop-safety chain crew. The jet blast almost knocked down PO Ackerman. He grabbed a pad eye and tried to hold on to protect himself. He stood only 10 feet from a turning prop, and jet blast was blowing him toward the prop.

He saw a yellowshirt, who had been directing the E-2, getting blown down in front of him. PO Ackerman tried to grab him–because the yellowshirt was headed straight for the starboard prop of the E-2. As the yellowshirt broke the safety chain, PO Ackerman was unable to let go of the pad eye. He only could yell and wave his flashlight as the yellowshirt got closer to the spinning prop. “All of a sudden I heard a loud noise, unlike any noise that I have ever heard, and I thought the yellowshirt had met his fate,” PO Ackerman said.

Cdr. Quinn sat in the copilot’s seat and saw the events unfold. Without hesitation, he feathered the starboard prop. The sound PO Ackerman had heard was the feathering of the starboard prop. The blade of the eight-foot prop stopped inches from the yellowshirt’s head as he passed through the prop arc.

During the setup for a 1 v 1 butterfly engagement in the W-291 area off Southern California, the crew of BAT 70 noticed an abrupt change in the stability of their FA-18D. At 17,000 feet, 420 knots and 1 G flight, the aircraft began shuddering violently. The pilot, Capt. David Smay IV, called, “knock it off,” and said the left wing tip was oscillating. The WSO, Capt. Neal Wynn II, said the right wing tip appeared to move about 24 inches from the normal position, and the right aileron was moving freely in the relative wind. The crew immediately checked the flight-control-system (FCS) page and saw no abnormal codes or flight-control failures, indicating a probable structural failure rather than an FCS or other system problem. The aircrew discussed controllability concerns, troubleshooting options and divert locations. The lead aircraft’s WSO, Capt. Devin Clark, noted a Navy ship in the area as an immediate rescue option, should the aircraft become uncontrollable. The flight lead called for a switch to base frequency to tell them of the problem. The operations duty officer, Capt. Brian Skouse, passed information to controlling agencies, senior squadron officers, and the probable divert location: NAS North Island.

Capt. Smay decelerated to 220 knots and descended to 16,000 feet to assess the situation. Lowering the gear did not affect controllability. However, when the flaps were lowered to half, the aircraft yawed to the left, and the nose pitched up. Capt. Smay said the aircraft required more than one-half right rudder and over one-half left-stick deflection to maintain straight and level flight. As Capt. Smay learned to fly a cross-controlled, side-slipping Hornet, the lead pilot, Maj. Douglas Lang, reported his aircraft was indicating an unsafe, right main-landing gear. Capt. Smay told SOCAL approach both aircraft were having difficulties, and his aircraft would be landing at NAS North Island while Maj. Lang’s would return to MCAS Miramar.

The flight set up for a straight-in approach to runway 36 at North Island. Maj. Lang troubleshot his gear problem while on the approach then turned to Miramar for a short-field arrestment. Postflight inspection showed a faulty weight-off-wheels proximity switch that gave Maj. Lang the false gear-unsafe indication.

Capt. Smay had to hold 15 degrees of crab to touchdown to maintain a straight ground track into North Island. The right aileron’s hinge-attach point had sheared, allowing the aileron to move freely, which resulted in the oscillations. Both crews and the ODO exercised outstanding resource management in handling simultaneous emergencies and recovering both aircraft safely. A hazrep and an HMR-El were submitted for the aileron’s hinge-attach point.

For BZ submissions, please include a photo of the crew and a squadron zapper along with the article. Photos must be at least 300 dpi and identify the individuals with full name. Send submissions via e-mail to the editor. See inside of front cover for email and mailing information.

COPYRIGHT 2002 U.S. Naval Safety Center

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group