Category Archives: Aviation Safety / Air Crashes

Former U.S. Navy F/A-18 Pilot Hailed as Hero in Southwest 737 Accident As Investigation Into the Cause Continues

Accident Investigation Focuses on CFM56-7B Engine. Navy P-8A Uses Same Engine.

Media around the world is acknowledging Southwest Airlines Captain Tammie Jo Shults for her role in landing a Boeing 737-700 airliner after the port (left) jet engine disintegrated and damaged the aircraft’s wing and fuselage during a routine flight from New York’s La Guardia airport to Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

There were 143 passengers and five crew on board. The accident resulted in one fatality and seven injuries. The aircraft was at 32,000 feet when the accident occurred according to several reports. Capt. Shults declared an in-flight emergency and diverted to Philadelphia International Airport where she made a successful emergency landing with the damaged aircraft.

The Captain of the flight, Tammie Jo Shults, was among the first female pilots in the U.S. Navy to fly the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet multi-role attack aircraft. Stories from around the internet are quoting a 1993 Navy magazine article as saying Shults was an A-7 Corsair (possibly the EA-7L electronic warfare variant) and F/A-18 pilot. She is reported to have flown with VAQ-34, the “Flashbacks”, a Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron of the U.S. Navy that provided threat simulation for air combat training. Many reports are citing that, at the time Shults was a naval aviator, that female pilots were not included as pilots in combat units, effectively preventing her from flying fighter aircraft operationally.

Southwest Airlines Capt Tammie Jo Shults was a former U.S. Naval aviator. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Shults was quoted on several blogs including Heavy.com and FoxtrotAlpha.com as telling Navy magazine, “In AOCS (Aviation Officer Candidate School), if you’re a woman (or different in any way), you’re high profile; you’re under more scrutiny.” Shults told the magazine that chances for women to advance in the aviation community were limited. “It would be nice if they would take away the ceilings (women) have over our heads,” she told the magazine. She praised her former U.S. Navy squadron by saying, “In VAQ-34, gender doesn’t matter, there’s no advantage or disadvantage. Which proves my point – if there’s a good mix of gender, it ceases to be an issue.”

As of Wednesday morning, the day after the accident, media outlets as far away as the South China Morning Post were writing that Shults is, “Being praised for her ‘nerves of steel’ in helping to prevent a far worse tragedy.” The Associated Press ran a quote from her brother-in-law who told them, “She’s a formidable woman, as sharp as a tack.”

A report on NBC News said that Capt. Shults, 56, is a 1983 graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. She earned a degree in biology and agribusiness at the school before going on to become a naval aviator. Her husband is also a pilot for Southwest Airlines.

NBC News reporters Elizabeth Chuck and Shamar Walters went on to report that, “The passengers described horror in the moments after the plane’s window was shattered. Passenger Eric Zilbert told NBC News that a woman was “partially sucked out” of the plane by explosive decompression of the cabin. Zilbert told NBC News that a group of passengers leapt over seats inside the Boeing 737 to pull the woman back in. A group of passengers then performed CPR on the woman following the window failure.

As with all aviation accidents, an investigation into the cause of accident is already underway in the U.S.

The damaged engine and missing window aft of the wing can be seen in this widely shared media photo of the Boeing 737 aircraft after the emergency landing. (Photos: via YahooNews)

Southwest Airlines’ Capt. Shults calm demeanor and professional airmanship recall the January 2009 incident referred to as the “Miracle on the Hudson” when U.S. Airways flight 1549, an Airbus A320-214 with 155 people on board, made an emergency water landing in the Hudson River in New York after losing both engines during take-off to a bird strike incident. The pilots in that celebrated incident, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, were lauded as heroes and went on to be portrayed in a Hollywood movie about the incident. Capt. Sully Sullenberger was also a former military pilot prior to his career at U.S. Airways, having flown the F-4D Phantom II and acting as Blue Force commander at Red Flag air combat simulation exercises at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

As with all aviation accidents, an investigation into the cause of accident is already underway in the U.S.

On Thursday, the BBC World News reported that, “Investigators say there was a fault with the engine’s fan blades – the cause of [an] incident two years ago.” The previous engine failure occurred on a Boeing 737 in 2016. The aircraft made an emergency landing in Florida.

The Boeing 737-700 in this accident used two CFM56-7B engines. Because of the incidents with the CFM56-7B powerplants on 737s the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB), the civilian authority for commercial aviation in the U.S., there will be an “Airworthiness Directive” bulletin issued within the next two weeks directing the detailed inspection of many of the CFM engines. CFM told the BBC World News that more than 8,000 Boeing 737s in service around the world use the CFM56-7B engine.

An inspector examines the engine of Southwest Flight 1380 after its emergency landing. One engine fan blade can clearly be seen missing. (Photo: NTSB)

The military version of the Boeing 737 airliner, the long-range maritime and anti-submarine warfare P-8A Poseidon as well as the other combat variant (such as the E7 AEW&C) also use the CFM-56-7B engines. The P-8A is in service with the U.S., Australia, Norway, India and the U.K. forces. As of this week there have been no public directives about engine inspections on the military version of the aircraft.

Top image: The Boeing 737 aircraft showed substantial damage after the engine failure. (Photos: via Twitter)

F-22 Incident Alleged to be Engine Power Loss. Pilot Lands Gear-Up.

Unofficial Sources Say F-22 Acting as Adversary at NAS Fallon Had Flame-Out.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 3rd Air Force Wing at Elmendorf Air Force has been involved in an incident at NAS Fallon in western Nevada. The aircraft has been shown in photos posted to social media laying on the runway with the landing gear retracted. The aircraft appears largely intact. No injuries have been reported. BTW, Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone has posted an interesting photo of the Raptor on its belly here.

There has not been an official announcement of the cause of the incident, and an incident like this will be subject to an official investigation that will ultimately determine the official cause.

Unofficial sources at the scene of the incident said that, “The slide happened on takeoff. It appears to have been a left engine flameout when the pilot throttled up to take off. By the time he realized the engine was dead, he had already been airborne for a few seconds and raised the gear. The jet bounced for around 1500 feet, and then slid for about 5000 feet. They got it off the ground and on its landing gear last night, so the runway is clear.”

The source also alleged there was another engine-related incident on an Elmendorf F-22 within the last seven days, although this unofficial information has not been verified.

Social media photos showed the aircraft being lifted with a crane following the incident. (Photos: via Air Force amn/nco/snco Group on Facebook)

It is likely the aircraft involved in the incident came from either the 3rd Wing’s 525th Fighter Squadron or the wing’s 90th Squadron. The 525th and 90th fighter squadrons are both part of the U.S. Air Force 3rd Wing. According to several sources the F-22 was at NAS Fallon to provide an adversary training resource to aircraft on exercise at the base. Naval Air Station Fallon is the home of the famous “Top Gun” school, the U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.

Top image credit: Air Force amn/nco/snco

Greek Mirage 2000-5 Crashes Over Aegean Sea; IL-76 Transport Down in Algeria.

Both Accidents in Different Regions on Thursday Resulted in Fatalities.

Two significant military aviation accidents occurred on Thursday, April 12, 2018. One in the Aegean Sea near the Greek Isles, the other one, in Algeria, Africa.

A Hellenic (Greek) Air Force Mirage 2000-5 aircraft crashed near the Greek Isle of Skyros in the Aegean Sea on Thursday. The aircraft was returning from an intercept mission on Turkish Air Force F-16s. In spite the initial reports, the crash of the Mirage 2000-5 was unrelated to the earlier “engagement” with the Turkish aircraft and occurred after the aircraft were in proximity of each other.

The Greek news outlet Ekathimerini reported that “The Mirage 2000-5 jet fell some nine miles northeast of the island [Skyros] which is part of the Sporades group near the central Aegean,” according to a statement issued by the Hellenic Air Force. “According to Greek defense sources, the Mirage had been one of two Greek jets on a mission to intercept Turkish jets in the Aegean earlier in the day.” The news outlet went on to report that the same sources said they did not believe any hostile activity was involved in the accident. The crash is reported to have occurred sometime around noon local time on Thursday.

A Turkish language publication, Milliyet.com.tr, named the pilot of the Greek Mirage 2000-5 as 34-year-old pilot was named Captain Giorgos Baltadoros of the 331 Air Force Squadron from Tanagra. Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos wrote on Twitter that Capt. Baltadoros was, “A hero who fell in the fight to defend our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

the official photo of Captain Giorgios Baltadoros, assigned to 331 Squadron.

The Mirage 2000-5 is a successful French designed multi-role supersonic delta wing combat aircraft built by the Dassault company in France. The Hellenic Air Force ordered 15 of this, latest version of the Mirage aircraft in August of 2000. The Greeks already operated a force of 40 earlier model Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft. The Dassault Mirage is a common combat aircraft throughout the Mediterranean, Africa and Middle East and boasts a proven combat record.

The Mirage 2000-5 pilot was identified as 34-year old Captain Giorgios Baltadoros from Tanagra, Greece. (Photo: EPT1 Greek News)

In a separate, unrelated crash on Thursday a Russian-built, Algerian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 heavy transport crashed after takeoff from Boufarik military airport, west of Algiers, Algeria. The aircraft was en route to Bechar and Tindouf in the south-west of Algeria according to a report filed by the BBC World News.

News outlets throughout Africa, Asia and Europe are reporting up to 257 fatalities from the crash. This is the largest number of people to perish in an aviation accident since the July 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board flight MH17 died in the 2014 crash.

Some persons on board the Algerian Air Force IL-76 were taken to hospital after rescue operations began according to Algerian authorities as reported by the BBC. No other reliable information has been seen about possible survivors.

Based on photos and video from the crash scene, the aircraft appeared to have gone down during daylight hours. The BBC reported that, “A military aviation observer told the BBC that, based on how intact portions of the plane were, they believed the pilot had tried to crash-land.” There has been no confirmation of that report from Algerian sources.

The Ilyushin Il-76 is a large, four jet engine heavy transport aircraft built in Russia. It is roughly similar in basic configuration to the U.S. built C-17 Globemaster III. The aircraft is valued for its heavy payload capability and the ability to land and take-off from unimproved runways making it well suited for operations on the African continent. The Algerian Air Force is reported to operate a total of 17 of the heavy jet transports. The Ilyushin IL-76 (NATO reporting name “Candid”) is widely used by military and commercial air transport services around the world and has an excellent safety record for such a prolific aircraft. The IL-76 first flew in March 1971.

Top image: An Algerian IL-76 (left) and Greek Mirage 2000-5 both crashed on Thursday. (Photo: via Wikipedia)

Air Force Identifies Thunderbird F-16 Pilot Killed in Crash at Nevada Test and Training Range.

USAF Major Stephen Del Bagno, Thunderbird #4, Was Experienced Pilot, First Year Thunderbird.

Update: a previous version of the story only mentioned the flyover at the Daytona 500 whereas the Thunderbirds have performed a display at Melbourne air show 2018, Florida.

The U.S. Air Force has identified the member of the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team who died in a training accident near Nellis AFB, Nevada yesterday morning while training for the upcoming airshow demonstration season.

USAF Major Stephen Del Bagno, listed as being from Valencia, California by ABC7 News in California, was previously the F-35A Lightning II Chief of Standardization and Evaluation at the 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Florida. He became a Thunderbird demonstration pilot in 2017 for the 2018 airshow season.

Major Del Bagno is reported to have only had the opportunity to participate in one Thunderbird public flyover at the Daytona 500 NASCAR race in Florida on February 18, 2018 and to the display at Melbourne Air and Space Show, Florida, on March 24-25 prior to his fatal accident. As an experienced tactical aircraft pilot with more than 3,500 total flight hours including 1,400 hours in U.S. Air Force aircraft, Major Del Bagno began flying and rehearsing with the Thunderbirds last year and was experiencd as the Number 4 “Slot” pilot in the Thunderbird diamond formation. He had flown over 30 types of aircraft, civilian and military, during his career.

The official USAF Thunderbird page for Major Del Bagno summarized his impressive career as an exceptional aviator:

“Maj. Stephen Del Bagno is the Slot Pilot for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, flying the No. 4 jet. He is a 2005 graduate of Utah Valley State university, and commissioned from Officer Training School, Maxwell AFB, Ala. In 2007. Before joining the Air Force, Del Bagno was a civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter, and a banner tow pilot. He enjoys snowboarding, water sports and spending time with family and friends. Prior to joining the Thunderbirds, Del Bagno served as an F-35A Evaluator Pilot and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla. He has logged more than 3,500 flight hours in over 30 different aircraft, with 1,400 hours as an Air Force pilot. Del Bagno is in his first season with the team and hails from Valencia, Calif.”

Major Del Bagno had replaced former Thunderbird #4 slot pilot Major Nick Krajicek, who moved within the Air Force to another assignment. Maj. Del Bagno, callsign, “Cajun”, was the first F-35A Lightning II pilot to fly on the Thunderbirds team in the F-16.

In a February 2017 release, Maj. Del Bagno talked about the capabilities of the F-35A Lightning II he was flying at the time, “This jet is going to take us to 2050 and beyond. As threats evolve, we need to continually stay ahead of them. It’s a multi role platform and this proves how versatile the aircraft can be. We can shoot missiles, we can drop bombs, so we can take the fight to the enemy.”

No further information has been released about the accident. As is common with any military aviation accident a formal investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Air Force.

Thunderbird diamond (credit: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

Thunderbird Pilot Killed in Crash at Nevada Test and Training Range

It’s the third crash in less than two years for the demo team.

The U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds, confirmed in a Tweet just before midnight last night, April 4, that one of their pilots died in the crash of an F-16 over the Nevada Test and Training Range near Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada.

The fatal crash happened during a scheduled training flight on Wednesday at approximately 10:30 AM according to news reports. Identity of the pilot killed in the accident has not been released by the Air Force. A crash investigation is also underway.

This accident from a U.S. military aircraft follows two crashes by U.S. Marine aircraft in the U.S. and in Africa over the last two days that resulted in four fatalities. A U.S. Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed in the U.S. earlier this week and a U.S. Marine AV-8B Harrier VSTOL attack aircraft crashed in Djibouti, Africa that same day. Four fatalities were reported in the CH-53E crash in the U.S. while the pilot of the AV-8B that crashed in Djibouti ejected from his aircraft and was reported to have walked to an ambulance following the accident.

Although it could be completely unrelated, the fatal Thunderbird accident from yesterday follows the late 2017 replacement of the Thunderbirds then-commanding officer. Former Thunderbird commanding officer Lt. Col. Jason Heard was relieved of command of the Air Force Flight Demonstration Team in late November of last year. The official reason cited for his removal from the position was a “loss of confidence’. Following his removal from command of the Thunderbirds Lt. Col. Heard was replaced by Thunderbirds’ operations officer, Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, according to Air Combat Command at the time. Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh has remained the Commander/Flight Lead of the Thunderbirds.

The latest deadly crash comes less than one year after an incident involving a U.S. Air Force F-16D Fighting Falcon that flipped over after landing at Dayton International Airport in Ohio during a single-ship familiarization flight on Friday June 23, 2017. The pilot sustained injuries and the crewmember was uninjured.

According to the accident investigation report, “Excess airspeed and insufficient stopping distance on a wet runway” caused the aircraft to depart the runway and overturn in the grass.

Previously, on Jun. 2, 2016 a Thunderbirds F-16 crashed shortly after the demo team had performed a flyover at the annual Air Force graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs. The pilot managed to eject before the aircraft crash landed in a field not far from Peterson AFB, Colorado. The cause of the F-16CM #6 crash was found in “a throttle trigger malfunction and inadvertent throttle rotation.”

The Thunderbirds have cancelled their appearance this weekend at the March Field Air and Space Expo in Riverside County, California. No official announcement about the remainder of the team’s 2018 show schedule has been made.