03 July 2012

F/A-18D Mishap Investigation

The mishap investigation for the F/A-18D crash in Virginia Beach this past April has been completed and released. The investigation determined the pilots followed proper emergency procedures and cleared the aircrew of any dereliction of duties or misconduct. I’m proud of our replacement pilot and his Weapon Systems Officer who were flying the F/A-18D that day – they reacted to the emergency with the professionalism and courage that is the standard within Naval Aviation.

I’m posting a link to the investigation below for anyone who is interested in reading a detailed and thorough analysis of what happened from take-off until the plane crashed.

For those of you who would prefer a broad overview of the findings, you can read the letter I wrote below which is being run in today’s Virginian-Pilot.
All the best, JCHjr

Link to the mishap investigation: http://www.public.navy.mil/airfor/Pages/foiareadroom.aspx

Link to the Virginian-Pilot article you see below: http://hamptonroads.com/2012/07/lessons-hornet-crash

Lessons from the Hornet crash 

By John C. Harvey
The Virginian-Pilot ©
July 3, 2012

As the Navy concludes its investigation into the cause of the crash of one of our Oceana-based F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets into the Mayfair Mews apartment complex in April, I want to share what we have learned and again thank the citizens of Virginia Beach for their heroic response.

While we are very fortunate that no one was killed or seriously injured, I want to acknowledge the significant impact this incident has had on the residents of Mayfair Mews, particularly those who lost their homes and personal belongings. The Navy will continue to do everything within our power to ensure these residents have the support they need.

I also wish to acknowledge the work of the Virginia Beach Fire Department, led by Chief Steven Cover, the Virginia Beach Police Department, led by Chief James Cervera, the many extremely skilled emergency personnel and the very brave citizens who rushed into burning buildings to rescue fellow residents, moved our downed air crew to safety and worked together as a team, alongside our sailors, to battle the blazes that had engulfed several of the buildings.

The teamwork and strong relationship between the Navy and Virginia Beach were on full display during this incident and witnessed by the entire nation.

With that relationship in mind, I can tell you we have done our due diligence to find the how, why and what behind this crash and prevent something like it from happening again. Many dedicated professionals and aviation experts have devoted considerable time and effort to conduct a thorough investigation.

We have a high level of confidence that we know what happened. Although we were unable to identify a smoking gun, we did find a substantial body of evidence to support the findings.

The results show that the aircraft suffered two unrelated, nearly simultaneous, catastrophic engine malfunctions. The first malfunction occurred in the right engine during takeoff when the pilot received warnings in the cockpit that the engine had stalled.

The pilot followed established procedures by taking both engines out of afterburner and then placing the right engine in an "idle" position. The pilot attempted to compensate for the loss of thrust in the right engine by increasing throttle in the left engine, but the left engine failed to respond.

At this point, the aircraft was severely underpowered and began losing altitude. At approximately 100 feet altitude, the aircraft began to roll to the right, and the air crew was forced to eject.

The investigation determined the pilots followed established procedures, and it cleared the air crew of any dereliction of duties or misconduct. Our experts also have concluded the outcome would have very likely been the same for even our most experienced crew.

After we determined the extremely rare chain of events (simultaneous, but unrelated engine failures) that led to this crash, we began updating our emergency procedures and training air crews to effectively respond should they encounter a similar situation.

I thank the citizens of Virginia Beach for their support for our sailors and Navy. With up to 200,000 flight operations every year at NAS Oceana, our training here is absolutely critical to maintaining a powerful and global Navy.

Every day we fly these aircraft, we know that we are flying them over your homes and ours, your families and ours, schools, churches, day care centers and more. I assure you that your safety is our top priority.

You have my commitment that we will remain focused every day on ensuring that we have the best aircraft, operated by the most skilled air crew, conducting the safest flight operations possible.

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