Losses and Aviation Safety

The VF-142 F-4B that was able to make an emergency landing aboard USS Ranger after her radome was destroyed by Vietnamese AAA

VF-142 F-4B emergency landing

The featured image of this article shows a U.S. Navy McDonnell F-4B Phantom II (BuNo 150643) of Fighter Squadron VF-142 Ghostriders. VF-142 was assigned to Attack Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CVA-64) from May 5, 1964 to Feb. 1, 1965.

CVW-14 flew the first strikes of the Vietman War. On a photo reconnaissance mission to the Thanh Hoa Bridge, the F-4B 150643 of the fighter cover (call sign “Dakota 207”, pilot Fred Ferrazzano) was hit by a 57 mm shell at an altitude of 150 m. This hit destroyed the nose cone, parts of it being ingested by both J-79 engines and (as was later found out) the main spar had been twisted with the shock of the hit.

The pilot was able to recover aboard the USS Ranger (CVA-61). Due to the damage the plane was later broken up for spare parts at Subic Bay, Philippines. Note that the aircraft is carrying an AIM-9B Sidewinder missile.

This model is available AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

VF-142 transition from the F-4B to the F-4J

According to Home of M.A.T.S. between May 1964 and May 1968, the Ghostriders made 4 WestPac deployments, one in USS Ranger (CV-61) and the remainder in USS Constellation (CV-64). During these cruises, 2 MiG-21s, one MiG-17 and an An-2 Colt aircraft were downed by VF-142 crew members. The squadron was also awarded three COMNAVAIRPAC Battle Efficieny “E” Award.

After transition from the F-4B to the newer F-4J aircraft, the Ghostriders once again deployed for WestPAC in USS Constellation on 11 August 1969. The squadron was awarded the Battle E Award in 1968-1969, and the Naval Aviation Safety Award for 1969-1970. In June 1971, VF-142 deployed in USS Enterprise (CVN-65) for a sixth combat deployment to Vietnam.

VF-142 F-14B emergency landing

Noteworthy, 26 years after the incident shown in the featured image of this post, another VF-142 aircraft, this time a Grumman F-14B Tomcat (BuNo 161433) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), had to make an emergency landing when the nose cone came off because of a latching mechanism failure at a height of 8,200 m over the Persian Gulf.

During the departure the radome came in contact with the canopy and broke out the forward glass and shattered the windscreen. The pilot suffered a broken right collarbone and glass in both eyes, but managed to bring the jet back to the ship for a perfect two wire landing.

Forward visibility was restricted to looking through a three inch hole in the left windscreen since the rest of the forward glass was so badly cracked. The pilot was LCDR Joe Edwards and the RIO was LCDR Scott Grundmeier. LCDR Edwards was medevac’d to Bahrain for eye surgery then home to the US.

Both crew members received Distinguished Flying Crosses for their remarkable achievement.

Photo credit: Commander Fred Ferrazzano / U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy via HOME OF M.A.T.S.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-14A Tomcat VF-142 Ghostriders, AG200 / 161422 / 1984
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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