On Apr. 7, 2020 US Air Force (USAF) A-10C Warthog tail-995 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.
As noted by Alert5, tail number 995 was recently restored, and who better to fly the aircraft than Bye. On Nov. 3, 2021, Bye departed on a sortie in that same A-10C.
As she approached her departure in the aircraft, she showed complete resilience.
“I’m excited,” Bye said in the article From crash to recovery: Pilot, maintainers show resilience by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers, 23rd Wing Public Affairs. “My first flight back was a step and this will be another. I think it will help build my continued confidence in learning how to fly the A-10 and mastery of it. If nothing else, I will know that this is not going to keep me from flying and continuing to pursue my passion.”
Although the events surrounding the flight can be mentally challenging, Bye said she remembers the advice of her mentors.
“One ‘G’, zero knots is something I’ve heard experienced pilots say,” Bye said. “So, just sitting (in the aircraft) at zero knots is the best time to make decisions, because going 300 miles per hour is not the time where I want to make a decision without having thought about it.
“Which is why I think the Air Force and the military in general do a great job practicing emergency procedures because the more intuitive it is the more likely you are to handle the situation better,” Bye continued.
Along with her courageous flight are the extraordinary efforts of the 75th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron to repair the aircraft. The trust Bye has in a successful flight can be attributed to the hard work of the 75th AMU to restore tail-995.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my career,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Duffey, 75th AMU cann manager. “This was one of our biggest struggles because we had no experience with rebuilding a crashed jet.”
A cann manager is in charge of keeping record of parts taken from a cannibalizing jet. Since the A-10 is an increasingly difficult airframe to maintain, there were moments of uncertainty for the aircraft’s restoration.
“Previously, (the 75th) was unsure if it would fly again,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Foltz, 75th AMU cann manager. “We went through thousands of maintenance discrepancies over 650 pages of records in a matter of weeks. Overall, it was a 584-day project that lingered for a long time, but once we started to make progress you could see everyone getting excited about it.’’
Noteworthy this is not the first A-10 to be restored in flight conditions after a belly landing.
As we have reported last week in fact, A-10 tail-264 flew again last week after 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group (AMXG) at Hill Air Force Base (AFB) spent more than three years restoring it to a like-new condition.
In July of 2018, tail number 264 arrived to Hill AFB in pieces, strapped to flatbed trucks. During a training mission over Michigan’s Grayling Air Gunnery Range on Jul. 20, 2017, Capt. Brett DeVries flew 80-0264 back to base for 25 minutes after a misfire in the aircraft’s 30 mm cannon caused the canopy and several panels to blow off.
Because the nose wheel was hung up and the main landing gear didn’t go down, DeVries had to do a belly landing with no wheels and no canopy. He made such a skilled landing that it was possible for the Warthog to be repaired and returned to service.
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers / U.S. Air Force
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