The MiG-29 hit the ground beside the runway, erupting in a tremendous fireball. Test pilot Anatoliy N. Kvochur landed a mere 30 m (98 ft) from the wreckage, the ejection seat impacting right next to him.
Taken on Jun. 8, 1989 the famous video in this post features MiG-29 ‘303 Blue’ (c/n 2960516767, f/n 3303) belonging to the Mikoyan OKB and flown by test pilot Anatoliy N. Kvochur crashing while performing a demo flight at 38th Paris Air Show.
As explained by Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov in their book Mikoyan MiG-29 & MiG-35, during a high-alpha/low-speed pass at 160 m (525 ft) concluding the Fulcrum-A’s aerobatics display a sheet of flame belched from the starboard engine nozzle as the engine surged. Kvochur immediately selected full afterburner for the good engine, but at only 180 km/h (111 mph) he had insufficient rudder and aileron authority to counter the thrust asymmetry and the result was inevitably an irrecoverable departure.
The engine failed at 13 hrs 44 min 57 sec local time; the stricken fighter immediately yawed and rolled to starboard, the nose ‘falling through ‘ until the aircraft entered a vertical dive at 1345.01 hrs. Two and a half seconds later Kvochur ejected at 92 m (302 ft) making sure the aircraft would not hit the spectators. At 1345.05 the fighter hit the ground beside the runway, erupting in a tremendous fireball. The pilot landed a mere 30 m (98 ft) from the wreckage, the ejection seat impacting right next to him.
To give credit where credit is due, the airport’s rescue and firefighting team was on the scene 55 seconds after the crash. Kvochur was rushed to a hospital but released on the same day with nothing worse than bruises and a cut above his right eyebrow from the oxygen mask. Indeed, he had been extremely lucky, as he had ejected outside the seat’s envelope, not to mention the proximity of the fireball and the falling seat. Yet the incident spoke a lot for the design of the Zvezda K-36DM ejection seat. As observers noted, ‘the MiG-29 demonstrated its structural integrity (as well as the soft nature of the ground at Le Bourget) by burying its entire forward fuselage, including the cockpit, in the ground before blowing up’.
Naturally, there was a good deal of speculation as to the cause of the crash. Video footage showed that the MiG had suffered at least two lightning strikes immediately before the accident. However, examination of the wreckage and FDR analysis revealed that the starboard engine had been critically damaged by multiple bird strike.
Mikoyan MiG-29 & MiG-35 is published by Crecy and is available to order here.
Photo credit: Unknown via Reddit