Category Archives: Aviation Safety

How two F/A-18s brought their pilots home after colliding mid-air during air combat training

The risky business of being an adversary pilot.

Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) is one of the most important parts in the training of modern fighter pilots. At the same time, an air combat maneuvering (ACM) session, where friendly and (simulated) enemy fighters fly against each other, can be one of the most dangerous training environment.

Although quite rarely, mid-air collisions do occur, sometimes with fatal results.

The evidence DACT can be quite dangerous is in the following photos, taken after a mid air occurred on Apr. 22, 1996 between two F/A-18As (BuNo. 162454 and BuNo. 162475) from VFC-12 Fighting Omars.

The two Hornets, along with another F/A-18, were playing the MiG-29 role during a Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP) sortie. Flown by the Flight Lead LCDR Greg “Stubby” Stubbs and his two wingmen, LCDR Greg “G.I” Anderson and LCDR Cal Worthington, the three F/A-18s engaged two VF-41 F-14s that were escorting an EA-6B Prowler.

Almost immediately the two Tomcats scored two kills with simulated missile shots at eight miles out against LCDR Stubbs and against LCDR Anderson.

The three Hornets remained in formation together until the merge point (where friendly fighters meet enemy fighters) and following the rules of engagement the two “MiGs” killed by simulated shots, executed aileron rolls to give the students a visual indication of which Bandits were killed and which one they should attack.

It was in the middle of the second aileron roll that Stubbs and Anderson collided, as explained by LCDR Stubbs himself to Rick Llinares and Chuck Lloyd for their book Adversary: America’s Aggressor Fighter Squadrons.

The nose of the Hornet flown by Anderson ripped through Stubbs F/A-18’s left wing and clipped off half of the vertical tail, while Anderson Hornet’s nose cone along with his canopy and his drop tank were lost. One of his engines was damaged as well.

The “Knock it off” (the signal given by the pilots to stop a training air engagement) of the furball was called and someone said on the radio that a mid-air had occurred. LCDR Worthington called Stubbs asking him if he could control his F/A-18. Stubbs applied right stick, right rudder and started pulling the power back a little bit and the nose came up. He answered to Worthington “yeah, I have it.” In the meantime also Anderson called to say he was fine, even if the sound of the wind filled his radio communications.

F/A-18A 1

Both the damaged Hornets headed towards the coastline, with Stubbs assisted by Worthington, while the F-14s were trying to communicate with Anderson. Since the Tomcats weren’t able to contact LCDR Anderson because of a radio problem, Stubbs said to Worthington that he had to join up with Anderson since he was facing more serious problems: in fact Anderson had lost his probes during the collision and his airspeed and altitude indicators didn’t work.

Even though the Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City was the nearest airfield, it lacked an arresting cable system and so Stubbs and Anderson decided to go to Oceana. Not only did the aircraft configuration make a standard approach almost impossible, but Stubbs also discovered that his Hornet entered in dangerous left rolls if the speed descended below 200 knots. So the long runway and the arresting cable system available at NAS Oceana were the best option for them.


After consulting with a McDonnel Douglas representative Stubbs decided to land without lowering his remaining flap. Two more Hornets, flown by LCDR Bertran and Bowman, joined up with him while he was preparing to lower his landing gear.

The damaged Hornet touched the runway at 200 knots, a speed that exceeded both the arresting gear engagement speed limit (175 knots) and the speed limit beyond which the hook might be ripped off (182 knots).

Few moments later also Anderson came to landing: his F/A-18 had lost the whole canopy aft of the windscreen (hence the sound of the wind that filled his radio communications) and wires were flapping out of the nose, beating against the side of the jet, but he was able to safely land.

midair 2

After two months, both pilots returned to flight status. Among the lessons learned in the mishap there was the need to put more emphasis on how pilots have to come out from the merge during the pre-flight briefing.

Conversely this accident was a significant testament to the sturdiness of the F/A-18: in fact although both the fighters were written off, the two Hornets were able to bring back home their pilots safely even after sustaining huge damages shown in the photos above.

Image credit: U.S. Navy via

Ukrainian Su-25 buzzes female soldiers then performs a dangerous low level aileron roll

Another crazy low pass.

Here’s another chapter in the Ukrainian Air Force low pass saga.

After the the Mig-29 overflying pro-Russia separatist blocking rails, an Ilyushin Il-76 buzzing some Su-25s and Frogfoots returning the favor while buzzing the tower, an Mi-17 helicopter flying among the cars on a highway and another fully armed Mig-29 Fulcrum in the livery of the Ukrainian Falcons aerobatic display team flying over an apron at an airbase in Ukraine, here’s a Su-25 flying low, really low, over the heads of a group of female soldiers posing for a photograph.

What makes the maneuver really dangerous, is not the “flyover,” but the low-level victory aileron roll the Frogfoot performs after the low pass: aerobatic maneuvers at low altitude can be extremely risky, if not performed by experienced, skilled pilots.

H/T From the Skies for the heads-up!

New video shows a fully armed Ukrainian Mig-29 Fulcrum performing an insane low pass!!

Yet another crazy low pass by a Ukrainian Air Force aircraft!

Filmed somewhere in Ukraine, this video shows the latest stunt by a Ukrainian Air Force jet: in this case a fully armed Mig-29 Fulcrum in the high-visibility, white, yellow and light blue livery of the Ukrainian Falcons aerobatic display team.

It looks like Ukrainian pilots like to fly low and fast on people filming them. In the past we have reported about the Mig-29 overflying pro-Russia separatist blocking rails at very low altitude, an Ilyushin Il-76 buzzing some Su-25s and Frogfoots returning the favor while buzzing the tower, and also an Mi-17 helicopter flying among the cars on a highway.

H/T From the Skies for the heads-up!


All the theories about the crash of Metrojet Flight 7K9268 into the Sinai Peninsula

What we know and what we don’t know about the crash of Metrojet A321 in Egypt.

On Oct. 31, at around 04.13 UTC, Metrojet flight 7K9268, an A321 flying from Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, to St. Petersburg, Russia, crashed into the Sinai Peninsula killing all the 224 people on board.

Since the aircraft was broadcasting ADS-B data, some interesting details about the flight until the rather mysterious crash could be gathered by some receivers located in the area.

Based on such data, made available by, the aircraft was climbing to a target autopilot altitude of 32,000 feet at 407 knots when “something” happened: after a brief descent, the A321 suddenly climbed past FL320, with a significant fluctuation in vertical speed (that reaches -5760 fpm).

The aircraft, or what remained of it, then started a steep descent until it crashed into the desert.

According to the information released so far, the pilots did not radio any distress call nor did they transmit the emergency transponder code 7700: whatever happened, they had no time to use the radio.

What may have happened is subject to speculations.

ISIS claimed to have downed the plane with MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems), something nearly impossible, despite the fact that the overflown territory is the scene of fighting between Egyptian security forces and terrorists, considered that the aircraft was flying well above the envelope of such systems.

For sure a surface-to-air missile could have reached the altitude of the Metrojet flight but it’s not clear whether SAM batteries are located within firing range.

Although the airline has claimed the aircraft was in perfect conditions, a structural collapse can’t be completely ruled out; actually investigators believe this to be less likely as the aircraft broke into two main parts only.

Metrojet said that they believe the aircraft broke as a consequence of a mechanical force acting on the aircraft a version coherent with several scenarios: from the mid-air collision with something (unlikely, since there would be debris of two aircraft..) to the missile, along with the already mentioned collapse and missile.

Some piece of debris has outer edges bent outwards, suggesting an explosion from the inside of the aircraft, as the one caused by a bomb. According to the media reports, this is the most likely cause of the incident for some of the investigators.

Although there is no direct evidence of any terrorist involvement yet, nothing can be ruled out a priori.

Image credit:



AgustaWestland AW609 tilt-rotor prototype aircraft crashes in Italy killing two test pilots

An AW609 has crashed today killing two pilots.

An AgustaWestland AW609 prototype has crashed near Santhià, in northwestern Italy, killing two test pilots on Oct. 30.

The tilt-rotor aircraft had taken off from Agusta’s airfield at Vergiate and the cause of the crash is still unknown.

According to the first reports the aircraft was in fire before it crashed into the ground.

The AW609 is a twin-engined next-gen tiltrotor VTOL aircraft: like the V-22 Osprey it is capable of taking off and landing vertically as a “normal” helicopter while having a range and speed in excess of conventional rotorcraft. The AW609 is aimed at civil aviation (both private and commercial operators), government and para-public roles: with space for 9 passengers it’s a multi-role aircraft that can be configured for passenger transport, search and rescue, law enforcement, maritime surveillance, training and government applications.

Image credit: AgustaWestland