F-14 Pilot tells the story of when his Tomcat went Inverted a Few Feet Above the Ground after Takeoff after both Flaps and Slats Failed. Pushing Negative Gs Stopped him from Crashing.

F-14 Pilot tells the story of when his Tomcat went Inverted a Few Feet Above the Ground after Takeoff after both Flaps and Slats Failed. Pushing Negative Gs Stopped him from Crashing.

By Dario Leone
Feb 9 2022
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‘Out of control, I reached for the “D” ejection handle between my legs. I grasped it but did not pull it, as I realized that being inverted the ejection would slam me into the dirt and I would die,’ John Chesire, former F-14 Tomcat pilot.

‘Right after takeoff in an F-14 and upon raising the flaps and slats, on one wing they came up and the other side they did not,’ remembers John Chesire, former US Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot, on Quora.

‘With now fully asymmetric flaps and slats I could not control the aircraft and rolled inverted, only a few hundred feet above the dirt.

‘Out of control, I reached for the “D” ejection handle between my legs. I grasped it but did not pull it, as I realized that being inverted the ejection would slam me into the dirt and I would die.

‘Pushing negative G stopped me from crashing. Also as my airspeed increased, I started to gain control of my wings and eventually made it roll, “right side up.”’

Chesire continues;

‘I did not immediately know what caused this. However I thought raising the flaps/slats might help. Unfortunately, when I moved the flap handle back up, nothing happened. They were still locked in position.

F-14 model
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‘I thought I would have to still eject when I got over the water a couple of miles ahead, but I did not have to do so. Climbing to 15,000 feet, I became an ersatz test pilot, trying to see at what speed I could still maintain control. It was around 230 knots or so. Therefore I maintained 240 knots until I touched down on our 12,000-foot runway.

‘After revisiting this incident so many years later, I am now wondering if I should have let the aircraft roll all the way around, 360°.

‘Of course my natural instinct was to fight it. I had full opposite stick, full left rudder, and full asymmetrical thrust (‘burner in one engine and much less in the other) before I reached for the ejection handle. But by then I was inverted.’

Chesire concludes;

‘Putting in all those extreme and opposite controls stopped the roll as intended, but they stopped the roll upside down and did nothing to roll back upright… until I gained more airspeed.’

VF-2 F-14A print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-14A Tomcat VF-2 Bounty Hunters, NK201 / 159625 / 1976

Photo credit: U.S. Navy


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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