F-15 jet crashes into sea off Oahu
The National Guard pilot is safe after he ejects and parachutes into the roiling water
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The pilot of a Hawaii Air National Guard fighter jet is reported in good condition after he ejected safely yesterday afternoon from an F-15D that crashed into the ocean about 60 miles south of Honolulu Airport.
The fighter jet, which had been returned to service just three weeks ago, was on a routine training mission at about 1:37 p.m. when the pilot lost control of the plane and ejected, officials said.
A Coast Guard team rescued the pilot at 2:15 p.m.
The Air Force grounded all of its F-15 Eagle jets following the catastrophic failure of a Missouri-based F-15C jet in November.
Thirteen of Hawaii’s F-15s were returned to service Jan. 9 after being cleared for flight. Another seven planes are awaiting clearance.
An investigation into the Missouri crash concluded that a defective aluminum beam in the frame cracked. Another probe found that more than 150 of the military’s F-15s also had the flawed beams.
The Hawaii Air National Guard has halted all training flights but will continue to fly missions related to the defense of the islands, said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, Hawaii National Guard commander.
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By Leila Fujimori
The Hawaii Air National Guard halted all training missions by its F-15 jet fighters after yesterday’s crash off Oahu’s southern coast, the first in the Guard’s history, said Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, state adjutant general.
The F-15s “will still continue to maintain the alert status to provide air defense for the state of Hawaii,” he said, which includes periodic alert flights.
The F-15D jet fighter that crashed yesterday was one of 13 Hawaii Air National Guard jets that returned to service Jan. 9 after extensive inspections.
The Air Force grounded all 676 F-15s worldwide after an F-15C broke in two during a routine training flight in Missouri in November. An investigation concluded that a defective aluminum beam in the frame cracked. Another probe found that more than 150 of the military’s F-15s also had the flawed beams.
Seven of the 20 Hawaii-based F-15s belonging to the Air Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron remain grounded pending word from Washington, Lee said.
The Hawaii Air National Guard pilot ejected safely at about 1:37 p.m. and was in good spirits and in good condition after his rescue, said Capt. Jeff Hickman, a spokesman for the Hawaii National Guard.
“It was the first time we’ve had a pilot have to eject and lose the plane” since the F-15s were acquired in 1987, Lee said.
The pilot, whose identity was not released, had extensive flight experience, Lee said.
The pilot said he could not control the plane and started to lose altitude before the crash, according to Lee. That was when he made the decision to eject and parachuted to the water 60 miles south of Honolulu.
Lee said the plane had experienced no problems during a routine training exercise earlier in the day.
An investigation, likely to take 30 days or more, is under way into the cause of the crash, Hickman said.
A Coast Guard rescue swimmer hoisted the pilot aboard a helicopter at about 2:15 p.m. yesterday about 60 miles south of Honolulu Airport and flew him in good condition to the Queen’s Medical Center for observation, authorities said.
Helicopter pilot Lt. Will Johnson said two other F-15 pilots maintained contact with the downed pilot, reported he was in the water but uninjured, and assisted in locating him.
There was no sign of the jet, but they found the bright green dye marker the pilot left, he said.
Rescue swimmer Petty Officer Dave Burns jumped about 15 feet from the helicopter into 10- to 12-foot swells.
“He was already sitting in his life raft, just waiting for us to pick him up,” Burns said.
The downed pilot walked off the helicopter at Queen’s and shook everyone’s hands.
“It’s definitely a good day when you can bail out of a plane and walk away,” Johnson said.
The Coast Guard dispatched two helicopters and a C-130 plane from Air Station Barbers Point after being notified of the crash at 1:45 p.m. The Coast Guard also sent out the Ahi, an 87-foot patrol boat, and the Kukui, a 225-foot buoy tender, whose crews checked for pollution and debris.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.