On a basic surface attack ride, A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot Capt. Taylor Bye’s attempts to fire her gun were met with severe failures that prevented her landing gear from deploying.
On Apr. 7, 2020 a US Air Force (USAF) A-10C Thunderbolt II flown by Capt. Taylor Bye from 75th Fighter Squadron was forced to make an emergency belly landing at Moody Air Force Base (AFB) while it was returning from a routine training mission during which it experienced a catastrophic gun malfunction.
On a basic surface attack ride at Grand Bay Range, Bye’s attempts to fire her gun were met with severe failures that prevented her landing gear from deploying, caused panels to fly off and sent her canopy soaring through the sky.
Although Bye faced adversities during her in-flight emergency, she managed to skillfully and safely land her A-10 with minimal damage, earning her the Air Combat Command Airmanship Award.
She told her story to Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers, 23d Wing Public Affairs, for the article 75 FS pilot crash lands A-10.
“My initial reaction was to climb away from the ground and then look at my engines,” said Bye, 75th Fighter Squadron pilot and chief of standardization and evaluation. “The amazing thing about the A-10 is even though all these things happened, I had two perfectly working engines and hydraulic systems.”
All single seat fighter jets are flown in pairs of two or four for mutual support. On that day, Bye was the flight leader accompanied by her wingman, Maj. Jack Ingber.
“I slowed down the aircraft and that’s when (Ingber) looked over my jet,” Bye said. “The trust in this community and the Air Force in general, but specifically this fighter squadron, is huge because I’m completely relying on him to let me know what’s going on so I can take the proper action and get both him and I back on the ground safely.”
During that time, Ingber followed proper procedure to relay critical information to Bye.
“When you’re in that environment, it becomes very robotic,” said Ingber, 75th FS pilot and assistant director of operations. “When anything (unusual) happens, it’s apparent and very easy to spot it and fix it. It’s my primary job to think of everything that (Bye) is not because she has a massive handful of an airplane that is falling apart.”
Outside of providing information, Ingber was able to aid in assessing the situation and take proper action.
“(Ingber) was a huge asset to me out there,” Bye said. “His airmanship was crucial in giving me those pointers and providing the best mutual support I could have asked for.”
After evaluating the damage, Bye’s final task was to safely land the aircraft.
“I came back in through a familiar entry point into Moody’s airspace with a chase aircraft,” said Bye.
A chase aircraft follows a subject aircraft for the purposes of making real-time observations and monitoring the surrounding airspace.
“At that point our director of operations had taken off and assisted in chasing me,” Bye said. “He was able to chase me down lower so he could help assist me even further into my approach.”
With the wind blowing in her face at 350 miles per hour Bye had to lower her seat which made it difficult to see the runway.
“I thought, ‘where’s the ground, where’s the ground’ … I was holding my breath at that point,” Bye said. “I guess I was nervous the whole time, but I didn’t have time to think about being nervous. My job was to take care of myself and to take care of the jet.”
Despite the large amount of abnormalities during the flight, Bye managed to successfully land with minimal damage to the runway.
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers and Andrea Jenkins / U.S. Air Force