Category Archives: Aviation Safety / Air Crashes

[Updated] U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy Performs Nose Gear Up Landing At Rota Air Base in Spain

A USAF C-5 Galaxy airlifter has made a successful emergency landing in Spain.

The top image was reportedly taken yesterday at Rota Air Base, Spain.

Sent us by one of our Twitter followers (thank you @asetanton), it shows a U.S. Air Force C-5M Galaxy cargo aircraft, registration 86-0020, that was forced to perform a nose gear up landing at the Spanish airbase after experiencing an unknown failure that made it unable to extend its nose landing gear.

We have just received a photograph from Rota:

The C-5 after the emergency landing in Rota. (via anonymous reader)

According to a source who wishes to remain anonymous, while on approach into Rota, as well extending the gear, the nose gear showed a “red wheels” indication. This told the crew that the gear doors were open but the gear didn’t move.

One of the Engineers ran downstairs to the fiber optic scope that is used in these cases to verify the gears position. The check proved that the nose gear was still up in the gearwell.

After that the aircrew ran the emergency extension procedures. One was to use the emergency extension switch located on the flight deck, and the other was actuating the hydraulic valves on their own.

The crew members tried these procedures in holding for over an hour where they finally had to turn back for Rota as they had reached the bingo fuel. The aircrew attempted to normally cycle the gear numerous times and they eventually got the landing gear to extend roughly 6 inches.

On the way in they ran the “wheels up, crash landing” checklist which included the nose gear up provisions. The provisions have the crew keep the gear up and the doors closed to minimize damage (as seen by the other times this procedure has been run). However, with the gear stuck partially extended, this became impossible. But with luck the wheels were far enough out that the Galaxy actually only experienced visual damage equal to what a wheel on a car looks like after it scraps a curb. After the plane came to a complete stop, the aircrew evacuated the flight deck and then assisted the evacuation of the 21 passengers in the troop compartment.

The wheels were far enough out that the C-5 actually only experienced visual damage equal to what a wheel on a car looks like after it scraps a curb.

Here’s a clip showing the Galaxy as it approaches Rota for the gear up landing:

The C-5 Galaxy’s nose gear is part of a unique tricycle-type landing gear system consisting of a total of 28 wheels.

It is a fine piece of machinery made of four main units fitted in tandem pairs, each with a six-wheel bogie with two forward and four rear wheels: the MLG (Main Landing Gear) rotates 90 degrees horizontally to be accommodated inside the gear bays when retracted after take off; furthermore, it is steerable for a 20 degrees left or right for crosswind landings.

Anyway, this was not the first time a Galaxy performed an emergency landing without an extended nose gear. You can find in the Internet at least a couple of videos of such gear up incidents.

The first dates back to August 1986, when a C-5A performed a nose gear up landing at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany:

According to the user who posted it on Vimeo, since Rhein Main shared the runway with the Frankfurt airport, and this gear up landing shut down the airport for at least a couple of hours.

The second incident occurred in May 2001 (we already posted a short story about it here), when a C-5 from Travis Air Force Base diverted to Rogers Dry Lake to perform a successful landing after the nose gear failed.

Top image via @asetanton

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In Russia’s Chechen Republic, Car’s Dashcam Captured A Helicopter Flying So Low It Almost Hit Cars On Major Highway

Helicopter Low Level Flying, Chechnya style.

Filmed by a vehicle’s dash camera, the video below shows an Mi-8 Hip helicopter buzzing the cars on the Rostov-Baku highway, near Gudermes in Russia’s Chechen Republic, earlier in May.

As you can see the chopper flew just several meters above a barrier dividing the highway lanes as cars and other vehicles whizzed past.

Besides the risk of distracting drivers, with vehicles traveling on both sides, any failure or bad move could have had devastating effects. Still, this is not the first time we have seen videos of helicopters flying low over public roads and highways. In 2015, a clip emerged of a Mi-17 Hip helicopter buzzing the cars on a highway somewhere near Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine’s fourth largest town, in the central-eastern part of the country. Few months ago, we published a video of an Mi-8 helicopter landing on a highway and blocking a truck convoy to ask directions somewhere in Kazakhstan.

In eastern Europe combat choppers train flying at low altitude using roads for navigation and masking.

So, if you are driving in Russia, Chechnya or Ukraine…beware of low flying helicopters!

H/T Giulio Cristante for the heads-up

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Blue Angels F/A-18s Make Contact And “Swap Paint” During Flyover: Pilots Land Aircraft Safely.

Joint Flyover Last Wednesday With USAF Thunderbirds Nearly Ends in Disaster.

A rare joint flyover last Wednesday, Apr. 26, with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds nearly ended in calamity when two of the Blue Angels’ F/A-18 Hornets momentarily touched while flying in formation causing minor damage to both aircraft. The two aircraft landed without incident following the collision.

According to a statement released by U.S. Navy Blue Angels spokesperson Lt. Joe Hontz and published in the Navy Times, “Two of the jets in the Blue Angel Delta formation encountered unexpected wake turbulence,” Hontz said, “causing a very brief and minor contact between the aircraft.”

The Blue Angels’ Boeing F/A-18 Hornet aircraft were flying in the six aircraft “delta” formation, an arrowhead arrangement of the four aircraft diamond formation combined with the two solo aircraft flying in outer trailing positions of the four-plane diamond.

Blue Angel Solos perform an opposing pass.

The Navy Times reported that Lt. Hontz said, “It is a testament to the training of the pilots that this incident remained very benign. The Blue Angels train in an environment where they fly extremely close — inches away from one another — and are fully prepared to respond and recover should minor contact occur.”

Even a small contact between two combat jets may have catastrophic consequences considered the velocities and energy involved.

An unnamed spokesperson added, “The aircraft required minor maintenance following the ‘paint-swap’ but are currently back in service.” The term “paint swap” was coined in American NASCAR stock car racing to describe when two racecars touch and rub paint onto each other from a minor collision.

The two pilots involved in the incident were not named in official press releases but are reported as cleared to continue flying demonstrations. They performed this past weekend during routine flight demonstrations at the MCAS Beaufort Airshow on April 29-30.

This 2017 incident follows an unusual number of precision jet demonstration team accidents from the same period in 2016 when four crashes on four separate jet teams occurred in only seven days. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the Swiss Patrouille Suisse team and the Russian Knights all suffered accidents during this time.

Among these, the crash of a Blue Angel F/A-18 during practice for a weekend airshow, took the life of U.S. Marine Captain Jeff Kuss, the Blue Angel number 6 pilot flying in the solo position. An official accident investigation revealed that Capt. Kuss, a highly-experienced FA-18 pilot, had “transitioned from the high-performance climb to the Split S [maneuver] too low and too fast, and by not deselecting his afterburners during the maneuver, he continued to accelerate. The net effect of these deviations was that the aircraft was simply too low and too fast to avoid impacting the ground.”

Hopefully this reportedly minor incident will be the last similar incident for the 2017 season and we will not see a repeated high frequency of accidents this season.

In our story about the fourth incident, we commented: “What’s the odds of four incidents occurring to four display teams in one week? It’s surely an unlucky period.”

Popular Mechanics aviation journalist Kyle Mizokami wrote about the 2016 incidents, “The timing of the four [2016] crashes, all within a seven-day period and two days with two apiece, is a wildly improbable coincidence.”

Update: here’s a video allegedly showing the moment of contact and the “break” between the aircraft: https://www.facebook.com/tim.tisdale.9/videos/10154774271204825/

Image credit: Tom Demerly. Top image shows the U.S. Navy Blue Angels in the “Delta” six-aircraft formation (file photo)

Tanker Cell departure: how multiple KC-135 tankers launch in sequence and rejoin after take off.

Take a seat inside the cockpit of KC-135 Stratotanker number 4 in a 5-ship “Tanker Cell.”

You don’t happen to see five KC-135 tankers launching in sequence too often: when needed, the aerial refuelers (sometimes coming from different airbases) normally rejoin in flight and from fly in cell formation until reaching the “racetrack” for the rendezvous with the receivers.

However, especially during the Cold War, several Stratotankers might be requested to depart in sequence at very short notice to support the nuclear bombers of the Strategic Air Command: in that case they KC-135s as well as the B-52s would perform a MITO (Minimum Interval Take Off), something they still train for quite regularly nowadays.

This video was filmed back in 1991 at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, and shows five Stratotankers departing in a so-called “Tanker Cell” with two R-Model tankers leading the cell, and all the rest A-Models trailing them.

According to Anthony Burleson, the user who posted the video to Youtube, “it was a rare procedure, however we had training requirements to maintain for cell takeoffs. There was a period when tanker spacing used to be 12 seconds, lol.”

“My early copilot training, during the last few years of SAC, used aircraft spacing of 12 seconds for the MITO. That was the standard spacing for the Minimum Interval Take Off for any combination of the KC-135 and the B-52.”

As you may imagine, things could become pretty tense in case of abort by one of the aircraft, especially the leader:

“[… ] an abort by any of the 5 ships would certainly create a gaggle to be dealt with at a moments notice. Being collectively briefed, if lead were to abort, #2 would assume the lead and so on. Safety is paramount within a training sortie; however, it was a great feeling when the cell would launch without a hitch,” Burleson explains in a comment.

Twelve KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi onto the runway during exercise Forceful Tiger on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 1, 2015. During the aerial exercise, the Stratotankers delivered 800,000 pounds of fuel to approximately 50 aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris)

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All U.S. F/A-18 Hornet models affected by oxygen deprivation and cabin decompression issues

Legacy and Super Hornet showing a concerning steady increase in “physiological episodes” that U.S. Navy calls “No.1 safety issue.”

The F/A-18 Hornets of all variants seems to be affected by a serious issue: oxygen shortage, or hypoxia, is plaguing the fleet of Legacy (A/B/C/D), Super Hornet (E/F) and Growler (EA-18G).

As reported by Bloomberg News, the F/A-18 of all models have shown a steady yearly increases of what the Navy calls “physiological episodes” due to oxygen deprivation and cabin decompression since the since May 1, 2010.

Navy officials testifying before the House Armed Services subcommittee called the problem the “No.1 safety issue.”

And what is even more concerning is the fact that there seem to be little clue as to what is causing the issue.

The “lack of overall progress” is “of great concern,” said Representative Niki Tsongas, the top Democrat in the panel.

While investigating the issue (with a task force of 62 people), the U.S. Navy has also enhanced “reduced-oxygen training” so that pilots can quickly identify the symptoms of hypoxia. Two aircraft carriers have installed chambers for aircrews exposed to decompression.

According to Bloomberg News, 130 out of 383 episodes “have involved some form of contamination,” according to a Navy and U.S. Marine Corps official statement. 114 involved an environmental control system component failure, 91 involved “human factors” and 50 concerned a component failure with the on-board oxygen generating system.

Older versions of the plane, the A through D models, have problems with cabin pressure whereas the Super Hornet and Growler issues “would appear to point to the onboard oxygen generating” system to which the Navy’ has already made changes.

It’s not clear whether the issue affects also other international Hornet operators.

Not the first time

This is not the first time the U.S. forces face the oxygen deprivation issue.

A similar problem plagued the F-22 Raptor fleet to such an extent the radar-evading aircraft were grounded back in 2011 following a deadly incident involving an Alaska-based stealth jets.

In that period, the F-22 were experiencing 26.43 instances of hypoxia or “hypoxia-like” problems for every 100,000 flight hours, compared to 2.34 instances per 100,000 hours for the F-15E and 2.96 for the latest version of the F-16 (the Hornet was not part of the data set released back then.)

After lifting the flight ban, the Pentagon restricted Air Force Raptors to fly near a “proximate landing location” in order to give pilots the possibility to land quickly if their planes’ On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) failed.

In May 2012, two 1st Fighter Wing “whistleblowers” appeared on CBS 60 minutes to explain why they were “uncomfortable” flying the Raptor (before changing idea few days later).

The flying branch eventually determined a valve that regulated oxygen flow into the Raptor pilot’s pressure vest was too weak and F-22s were given a new backup oxygen system as part of multiple contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin (worth 30 Million USD) that automatically dispenses oxygen when OBOGS is not providing enough. 

Various problems

The news that all the kind of Hornets might be choking their pilots comes in the wake of a Super Hornet and Growler fleet-wide grounding and (concerning but for the moment totally unrelated) increase in crash rate, especially among the oldest models.

Nine incidents involved “Legacy Hornets” (including the Canadian CF-18 lost on Nov. 28, 2016) in the second half of last year, with the latest loss on Dec. 6, 2016, when a USMC F/A-18C crashed off Kochi causing the loss of its pilot.

In the wake of the Hornet crashes from June through October, the U.S. Marine Corps temporarily grounded its non-deployed Hornets. Unfortunately, few days after the ban was lifted, two more F/A-18Cs were lost.

The crash rate has affected the ability of the USMC to perform training activities while committing to support real operations: out of a requirement for 171 aircraft, the service had only 85 Hornets available for training according to a report emerged last year.

In order to address the shortage of operational fighters the Marine Corps has launched a plan to upgrade 30 retired legacy Hornets (currently stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona) to a standard dubbed F/A-18C+: once upgraded these “gap fillers” should be more than enough to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios like those that see the USMC at work lately. Still, they might not have a fix for the hypoxia issue.

“Trump’s favorite jet”

As a side note, in their story on Bloomberg News, Roxana Tiron and Anthony Capaccio call the Hornet “Trump’s favorite fighter jet.”

This is due to the fact that Trump has been advocating the Super Hornet since December 2016, when the then president-elect posted a pretty famous tweet that favored the Boeing combat plane over the Lockheed Martin F-35C.

 

 

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