A $44.6m crash: F-15D from RAF Lakenheath crashed in Lincolnshire due to “imperfections” in jet’s nose cap and angle of attack, report states
09:58 13 March 2015
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An F-15D fighter jet from RAF Lakenheath crashed near Spalding in Lincolnshire in October because of imperfections in the aircraft’s nose cap and its angle of attack, an aircraft investigation board has found.
An Aircraft Investigation Board (AIB) report carried out by officials from US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa released yesterday found “clear and convincing evidence” that a combination of the two factors caused the plane to crash on October 8.
The male pilot of the jet, from the 48th Fighter Wing’s 493rd Fighter Squadron, ejected from the plane and suffered only minor injuries. There were no civilian injuries or casualties, with the plane crashing into fields, not far from a school and three miles southeast of Spalding.
The report states that the pilot had 1,645 flight hours at the time of the crash, while the aircraft had been used for 6,536 hours.
The crash took place just before 3.30pm, when the pilot entered into a spin while taking part in a basic flight manoeuvre training mission, according to the report.
It was when the pilot, flying under the call sign “Hitman”, performed an “abrupt aft-stick pull” - which put the plane at an extreme angle of attack - that the jet began to spin.
He tried to recover the aircraft, but when that failed, he ejected at 5,450ft - saying “I’m out man”, beforehand.
His injuries included a sprained left ring finger and “mild left calf cramping”.
After ejecting safely, the man borrowed a mobile phone a local resident who came to the scene, in order to call back to base and report his condition. He was picked up by a helicopter from the 56th Rescue Squadron, also based at RAF Lakenheath.
The rear seat passenger in a second aircraft - which did not crash - was not aircrew had been on the flight as part of the 48th Fighter Wing’s “incentive program”. The programme is a scheme set up to reward staff on RAF Lakenheath for good work.
The report states that the cost of the incident was $44.6m (£30.1m), with damage to private property limited to impact and fire damage on a farmer’s field. Environmental clean-up costs came to $604,405 (£407,396).
The report goes on to state that the incident was partly caused by a larger than normal gap between the body of the radome (aircraft nose) and the nose cap, with extruding sealant from the nose cap creating an uneven aerodynamic surface.
The extruding area was just 3/16 of an inch, enough to cause the plane to go into a spin in the right circumstances, and to cause delayed recovery.
The AIB was convened by General Frank Gorenc, Commander of USAF in Europe and Air Forces Africa, at RAF Lakenheath between November 8 to 27 last year. AIB members continued the work until the report was finished on December 3.