Losses and Aviation Safety

The pilot of the VFC-111 F-5N that crashed in August 2017 had to eject inverted

The Navy reservist pilot said he was pulling up vertical after commencing a mock dogfight when the nose of the F-5N became stuck at the vertical and right rudder control was sluggish

The U.S. Navy has completed its investigation into the crash of a F-5N assigned to Fighter Composite Squadron (VFC) 111 Sundowners off Florida on Aug. 9, 2017.

Investigators did not blame the pilot or anyone else for the incident and highlight the fact that the mishap pilot was making maneuvers at altitudes which prohibit such actions.

The Navy reservist pilot said he was pulling up vertical after commencing a mock dogfight when the nose became stuck at the vertical and right rudder control was sluggish. The pilot tried to keep the nose from “getting parked close to vertical,” but the right rudder input seemed sluggish.

“I do not recall an altitude or airspeed as I was looking at my opponent at this time,” the pilot said. “The aircraft departed controlled flight.”

The jet subsequently entered into an inverted spin which the pilot could not recover from.

“Knock it off, Viper 2, watch the deck,” his colleague in the other jet warned.

Upside down, the pilot recalled seeing “a number of items from the cockpit collect on the canopy above me.”

“I think the pens came out of my g-suit pocket.”

He tried to apply procedures to right the aircraft with the altimeter reading between 8,000 and 9,000 feet.

“The situation was unbelievably disorienting as I was ‘hanging in the straps’ and waiting for control effectiveness to return,” the pilot said.

He had to eject while inverted.

“Watch your altitude,” the other pilot warned again. “WATCH THE DECK!”

“I remember thinking I was rapidly losing the opportunity to eject as my altitude decreased,” the pilot said. “I grabbed the handles and commanded ejection.”

The pilot, who didn’t suffer significant injuries, was quickly rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.

“The watchstanders diverted a Coast Guard Air Station Miami MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew to conduct a search,” said the U.S. Coast Guard in a statement. “The helicopter crew arrived on scene at 1:15 p.m., observed an emergency smoke signal and located the pilot in the water. The rescue crew hoisted the pilot from the water and brought him back to Lower Keys Medical Center in good condition.”

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-5N Tiger II – Sundowners Rising, VFC-111 Sundowners, 2007

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

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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