On Jul. 20, 2021 an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot belonging to the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, UK, met the civilian plane spotter who potentially saved his life.
According to a post appeared on RAF Lakenheath Facebook page, ‘U.S. Air Force Maj. Grant Thompson, 492nd Fighter Squadron pilot, recognizes Mr. Ian Simpson, local aviation enthusiast, for calling the 48th Fighter Wing air field ops after noticing sparks spewing from the right rear engine of an F-15E Strike Eagle shortly after take-off, 13 July 2021. Maj. Thompson was unaware of the malfunction to his aircraft and because of the quick actions of Mr. Simpson, he was alerted by RAFL personnel and returned back to base safely without further incident.’
According to Air Force Magazine, Simpson happened to be watching planes take off at the base on Jul. 13 when he noted that one F-15E Strike Eagle was seemingly spewing fire and sparks out of its right rear engine, but the pilot seemed unaware.
As reported by the BBC, Simpson called the Lakenheath’s switch board and was connected with the 48th Fighter Wing field operations group. From there, Thompson was alerted to the issue and was able to land safely without incident.
“From our perspective, it was a normal takeoff,” Thompson told the BBC, adding that Simpson’s quick actions “100 percent” saved his life as his wingmen later noted that it appeared to be a nozzle malfunction on his F-15E.
Simpson told the BBC that he knew something was wrong when he continued to see sparks coming from the engine after takeoff, realizing then that they were not an afterburner.
When Thompson and Simpson met, Thompson thanked Simpson and presented him with several gifts in appreciation, including a trucker hat and his 48th Fighter Wing insignia patch.
RAF Lakenheath, is located 70 miles northeast of London and 25 miles northeast of Cambridge. The Liberty Wing consists of more than 4,500 active-duty military members, over 1,000 British and U.S. civilians and includes a geographically-separated unit at nearby RAF Feltwell. RAF Lakenheath is the largest US Air Force-operated base in England and the only US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) F-15 fighter wing. By teaming together the F-15E and F-15C, the unit brings unique air combat capabilities to the fight.
Photo credit: BBC
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