Crash grounds Guard’s F-15 jets

Posted on: Sunday, February 3, 2008

Crash grounds Guard’s F-15 jets

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

The 13 Hawai’i Air National Guard F-15s that were cleared to fly on Jan. 9 are grounded again – except for air defense missions – following the ocean crash Friday of an F-15D.

The pilot, still unidentified by the Air Guard, is at home after he ejected from the Eagle fighter as it lost altitude and control 60 miles south of O’ahu at about 1:37 p.m., officials said.

“He’s not able to grant any interviews yet because of the investigation going on,” said Capt. Jeff Hickman, a Hawai’i National Guard spokesman. “Also, he’s not ready to talk about it yet.”

That pilot did not suffer any broken bones and was alert and walking after being rescued by Coast Guard swimmers.

The Hawai’i Air National Guard’s 20 A, B, C and D model F-15 jets were grounded three times between early November and December after a Missouri Air National Guard F-15C broke apart on Nov. 2.

The pilot ejected and suffered a dislocated shoulder and shattered arm.

Thirteen of 20 Hawai’i Air National Guard F-15 fighter jets stationed at Hickam Air Force Base returned to the air on Jan. 9 after all were examined.

The 199th Fighter Squadron’s remaining F-15 Eagles had remained grounded and were awaiting clearance from Air Combat Command on the Mainland before Friday’s crash and what amounts to a fourth grounding.

A Safety Investigation Board will be convened this week to investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash and make a recommendation to prevent similar occurrences.

The Air Force has said in the past that such a board can include pilots, maintenance personnel and airframe specialists from around the Air Force and Defense Department.

Hickman said they will interview the pilot, and listen to flight recordings before the $28 million jet crashed.

The pilot has been taken off flying status and will assist with the investigation, Hickman said.

The Safety Investigation Board will have about 30 days to investigate and forward conclusions to the convening authority, but the results won’t be made public.

Because the crash is defined as a “Class A” mishap involving costs exceeding $1 million, an Accident Investigation Board also will be convened after the safety investigation.

It also will have about 30 days to report, the results of which will be released to the public.

Hickman said the Coast Guard recovered a small amount of debris from the crash site and the life raft that the pilot used after ejecting and parachuting into 12-foot swells.

Hickman said there will be no routine training flights in the 13 F-15s that were previously cleared to fly, but the “alert” mission for homeland defense sometimes involves practice launches.

The 199th Squadron has 27 pilots who fly the F-15.

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