Watch an F-16 suffer a compressor stall during the display at AirPower 2016 airshow

During the display at the Zeltweg airshow in Austria, the Belgian Air Force F-16 suffered a compressor stall that caused a loud bang and an impressive backfire.

On Sept. 3, during its display at the AIRPOWER 2016 airshow in Zeltweg, the “Viper” of the Belgian Air Force F-16 Solo Display Team suffered an apparent compressor stall that forced the pilot to perform a precautionary landing.

Take a look at the footage below. If you jump to 03:20 you will see the aircraft’s engine emanating flames (generating a loud bang you can’t hear) in what seems to be the typical behaviour of a compressor stall.

Compressor stalls (sometimes referred to as afterburner stalls in aircraft with reheat) are not too rare among military aircraft. They can be caused by several factors, including birdstrikes, FOD (Foreign Object Damage), ingestion of turbulent or hot airflow into the air intake etc.

A compressor stall is a local disruption of the airflow in the compressor whose severity may vary from a momentary power drop to a complete loss of compression.

A particular kind of compressor stall is the compression surge that occurs when the hot vapour generated by the aircraft carrier’s catapult is ingested by the aircraft air intake thus creating a breakdown in compression resulting in a the compressor’s inability to absorb the momentary disturbance and to continue pushing the air against the already-compressed air behind it. As a consequence, there’s a momentary reversal of air flow and a violent expulsion of previously compressed air out through the engine intake producing some loud bangs from the engine and “back fires”.

You can find several images of aircraft suffering compressor surges while taking off from airbases or being launched from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

As already explained on The Aviationist in the past, in most of the cases even after suffering a “surge” the compressor will usually recover to normal flow once the engine pressure ratio reduces to a level at which the compressor is capable of sustaining stable airflow.

Some engines have automatic recover functions even if pilots experiencing the surge can be compelled to act on the throttle or, in some cases, relight the engine.

Image Credit: Flight Video & Photo. H/T our friends at From The Skies for sending this over to us.

About David Cenciotti 4467 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

7 Comments

  1. Weird how on the slow mo there is a vapour come on the nose cone at the same time, wonder if that had anything to do with it?

  2. High AoA also can produce a disruption in airflow, and subsequently a compressor stall – as seems the current case.
    Just a burp…

  3. the burner plume never looked right from the beginning of the takeoff roll or the entire flight..

    • Or the day before. It’s appalling that a knock-it-off wasn’t called until it got bad enough for the pilot to abort. I hate to think what would’ve happened if that had happened during the high-AoA pass.

  4. It’s afterburner was strange since the start of the show, you don’t usually see such a long and dense streak of flames localized only in the lower part of the nozzle. Watch a normal 16 with AB on and you see an almost uniform flow exiting from the entire nozzle.

    • I latched right onto that, as you all did. What’s appalling is that there are pictures from the day before showing the same messed-up afterburner plume (http://s5.ifotos.pl/img/IMG6915Kj_ahnqppn.jpg). The ground observers must’ve been playing with their cell-phones or talking to some chick, they sure didn’t have the pilot’s back on this one.

  5. It seems more like a malfunctioning AB spray ring than a compressor stall. Note the lack of shock diamonds when in afterburner, from the start it just has a flickering flame sourced from the bottom of the nozzle. It’s clear also when he turns at certain angles with the camera, the upper half of the nozzle is dark. Since someone fucked up the video and took away the sound and did a weird slow-mo thing it’s hard to say for sure – but it looks more like the AB spray ring finally let go rather than a compressor stall. With audio it’d be easy to tell, but due to the engine problem from the start I’m sure that’s what it was. Someone should have alerted the pilot from the start. That was a very apparent problem.

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