Former USAF F-4 Pilot explains how he was able to safely land his Phantom II after the Explosion of its Right Engine

Former USAF F-4 Pilot explains how he was able to safely land his Phantom II after the Explosion of its Right Engine

By Dario Leone
Apr 9 2022
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The F-4 Phantom II’s fuel flow controller had NEVER malfunctioned. It wasn’t listed in the book of emergency procedures, the flight manual, or anywhere.

First flown in May 1958 and originally developed for US Navy fleet defense, the McDonnell two-place, twinjet, all-weather F-4 Phantom II, with top speeds more than twice that of sound, entered service in 1961 and was one of the most versatile fighters ever built.

It served in the first line of more Western air forces than any other jet. The F-4 was also the primary fighter-bomber aircraft in the US Air Force (USAF) throughout the 1960s and 1970s and in the “Wild Weasel” anti-aircraft missile suppression mission continued to serve until the mid-1990s.

‘The F-4 Phantom’s fuel flow controller had NEVER malfunctioned. It wasn’t listed in the book of emergency procedures, the flight manual, or anywhere,’ Charlie Noak, former F-4 Phantom II pilot with the US Air Force, recalls on Quora.

‘Hot August day, 1987. As number three in a flight, I was at full power to join up, coming closer, I started to pull the power back. Then, the full flow control failed to the free flow condition. Before I could pull the right throttle back to shut off the engine, The exhaust gas temperature had climbed above 1,570 degrees, the engine was spinning at 114%. Total time for the right engine to explode was less than three seconds. Huge fireballs out the front and back. Cut through the engine casing, and cut a hydraulic line. Now I had a recognizable emergency; engine out with loss of utility hydraulic system failure coming on steadily. Never turn into a bad engine. I was able to maneuver back to the runway, staying away from all habitations and head down final. The hydraulic system completely failed on short, too low to bail out. I landed, straight, fortunately. No drag chute deployment, no brakes, no steering, etc. Fortunately the runway was 8,000′ long, uphill, and directly into the wind. After the explosion, there was no fire, that was blown out.

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‘We came to a stop just even with the de-arm area, The fire truck gave us a nice foamy shower, then towed us clear of the runway. Once the canopies had been manually opened, I dropped my oxygen mask. The humid smell of growing corn had never smelled so sweet.’

Noak concludes;

‘Earlier, I had given my encouragement for my Weapons Systems Officer (WSO) to eject.

‘“What are you going to do, Charlie.”

‘“I have to go land this piece of s**t so we can figure what went wrong, and possibly fix the fleet.”

‘“Okay, I’ll do that too.”

Oh dear God look after this naive fool, he has a good heart.

‘“(Are) you coming?”

‘“Oh, I’ll be along in a few minutes, give me time to pull the seat cushion out of my a*s.”’

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force / NARA

F-4 model
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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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