“As I gently pulled back on the stick, the jet slowly lifted into the air with significant AoA buffet. Basically, I was using ground effect to stay airborne,” LtCol Moss “MOS” Mohr, F-15C Eagle Driver.
“There’s. a fine line between Hack and Hero,” says LtCol Moss “MOS” Mohr, a Missouri Air National Guard (MOGAR) F-15C Eagle driver in Steve Davies and Doug Dildy book F-15 Eagle Engaged, in regards to two near-identical incidents in the Eagle that could: have turned out very differently. For the first, which occurred at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) in July 1996 and resulted in Mohr being awarded the AETC Aircrew Safety Award of Distinction that year:
“The background was that two months prior, Capt Fontaine from Langley AFB had punched out of an Eagle at Nellis for an engine problem on take-off. Unfortunately, his was an A/B problem that he misdiagnosed. He pulled the wrong engine, ejected low altitude, landed pretty much in the fireball, and he was hurt pretty bad. In addition, that summer an F-16 had jettisoned an ACMI pod over Pensacola following an engine problem and killed someone when it landed in their home. Both these incidents were fresh in my mind. The fact that I was the air-to-air mission commander for this Red Flag mission also played a significant role in my decision matrix. With these facts in my head, Murphy’s Law and the standard links in the chain came into play that day,” he recalls.
“On take-off I experienced a left A/B anomaly, but I decided to press on with the take-off since I knew despite the 107°F air temperature and the two-bag configuration, the jet could easily take-off with just one A/B… and after all, I was the mission commander and mission commander sorties are few and far between. However, when the ‘good’ engine – the right engine – decided to drop to 73 percent well past abort speed, I now had a problem. My immediate thought was to put the nose down and get as much airspeed as possible by the end of the runway so I could maximize the wind available to open my ‘chute when I ejected. When I actually got to the end of the runway though, I realized that I was faster than expected and I might be able to fly this thing away. As I gently pulled back on the stick, the jet slowly lifted into the air with significant AoA buffet. Basically, I was using ground effect to stay airborne. As I crossed the runway departure end, I reached down to punch the tanks and noticed the line of cars on Nellis Boulevard heading to Lunch, and the housing area on the other side of the road that I was fast approaching. Remembering the F-16 pod jettison incident, I figured that I didn’t want to napalm all these people and be on the five o’clock news, so I decided to keep the tanks as long as I remained level to climbing.
“My next thought was that you’ve always got to sound good on the radio despite the seat cushion up your ass. I made a call on the Aux radio to my No. 2 man, `CYLON TWO, I’m going to be a little bit low and slow at the end of the runway so don’t hit me.’ Then I made a call on the main radio to-departure control, ‘Departure, CYLON ONE. I’m having a slight double engine problem and I’ll be going downtown. I’ll get back to you in a minute.’ With that I proceeded to fly straight toward downtown Vegas with about a 1 degree nose-high Climb. After removing the seat cushion from my ass and getting some altitude I eventually headed back over the desert and started to dump gas, but as Murphy would have it a piece of tank foam had clogged the dump mast. I ended up having to burn down gas from the two bag configuration while my right engine surged from idle to MIL the whole time.
“Being bored during the ensuing minutes, I tried to direct the air war from the airport pattern, but that didn’t go over too well with the alternate mission commander. Oh well! Anyway, after reducing fuel I landed from a straight in, but the right engine basically stuck in MIL power during the landing roll. I shut off the engine and rolled out uneventfully. Like I said, there is a fine line between Hack and Hero… just a hair’s difference between being the goat and winning AF and AETC Safety Awards.”
F-15 Eagle Engaged is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force