Private “Red Air” Adversary Simulator Aircraft Crashes Within Sight of Shore.
An ATAC private contract adversary Hawker Hunter crashed off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii shortly after takeoff from Honolulu airport close to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at around 2:25 PM local time on Wednesday. Photos posted on Twitter showed the pilot ejecting from the aircraft just off shore. According to local news media outlet Hawaii News Now, the pilot was a 47-year-old civilian contractor flying for ATAC. Some reports described the pilot of the aircraft as a “Hawaii Air National Guard civilian contractor”.
While the cause of the crash is under investigation, the photos posted on Twitter showed the aircraft flying back toward Honolulu as the pilot ejected suggesting he may have been attempting to recover the aircraft from an in-flight emergency.
Some footage, including a couple of clips showing the aircraft crashing into the water can be found here.
The pilot was initially rescued by a civilian sailboat in the area of the crash and then transferred to a U.S. Coast Guard vessel responding to the emergency. The accident scene is 3 miles south of Oahu near Honolulu’s Sand Island.
ATAC (Airborne Tactical Advantage Company) is a private defense contractor that provides threat simulation aircraft for training of U.S. air crews. They are known for having experienced flight crews and well maintained aircraft. ATAC also has demonstrated a consistent safety record.
The aircraft that went down, a Mark 58 Hawker Hunter single-seat, single engine tactical fighter, was participating in a large-scale training exercise over the Pacific called Sentry Aloha. The Hawker Hunter, a British made aircraft, first flew in 1951 and earned a reputation of durability and dependability in service with Britain’s Royal Air Force and the Lebanese Air Force. The aircraft has been used in combat in the Middle East and Africa.
According to the reports, two ATAC Hunters were at Hickam for Sentry Aloha: N323AX and N324AX. The first one, using callsign ATAC02 declared an emergency and crashed:
Today’s ATAC flight was changing lead aircraft.
N324AX was ATAC01, N323AX was ATAC02.
ATAC02 declared Emergency and crashed.
ATAC01 made holding pattern over crash site after that time.🤔 pic.twitter.com/mIljGvYtPB
— Golf9 ✈️ (@KimagureGolf9) December 13, 2018
Here’s a shot of the aircraft that went down:
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BREAKING, a Hawker Hunter went down off Sand Island. Reports that the pilot was able to eject and was picked up by a sailboat. @hawaiinewsnow #hawkerhunter #crash #aviationspotters #aviation #avgeek #aviationdaily #plane #planegeek #planespotting #danielkinouyeinternationalairport
At least 30 aircraft deployed from 9 states are participating in the large scale tactical training exercise including USAF F-15 Eagles, F-22 Raptors, E-3B AWACS and F-16 Fighting Falcons.