Losses and Aviation Safety

VX-9 EA-18G CREW RTBs BLINDED AND FROZEN AFTER GROWLER’s ECS FAILED IN FLIGHT

Flying blind, the EA-18G crew relied on a Garmin watch for navigation back to Whidbey Island. Breathing on oxygen from emergency equipment, they almost ran out of air by the time they landed

Crew members of a U.S. Navy EA-18G assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9) were injured when their jet’s environmental control system (ECS) failed during a flight from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island to Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake on Jan. 29, 2018.

The temperature inside the cockpit dropped to -30 degrees and a layer of ice engulfed the canopy and instrument panels.

A heroic effort by the two-person crew and the ground-based controllers managed to guide the aircraft back to Whidbey Island, but both pilot and Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) suffered serious injuries due to frostbite.

Flying blind, the crew relied on a Garmin watch for navigation back to Whidbey Island. Breathing on oxygen from emergency equipment, they almost ran out of air by the time they landed.

According Defense News, by the time the flight was over, the VX-9 aircrew was being rushed for medical treatment, and yet another failure of the EA-18G Growler’s environmental control system — one not seen in any of the previous physiological episodes linked to the ECS — was raising new concerns in the Navy’s sisyphean fight to stop physiological episodes from putting pilots at risk in the sky.

The aircrew suffered from “severe blistering and burns on hands,” according to the Navy internal report.

In a statement, Naval Air Forces spokesman Cmdr. Ron Flanders confirmed the incident and that the Navy was trying to determine the cause of the incident.

“The aircrew was treated upon landing; one of the aircrew is already back in a flight status; the other is not yet back in a flight status but is expected to make a complete recovery,”

“The mishap is under investigation; I cannot comment further. Once the investigation is complete, the Navy will determine which further actions are necessary.”

The EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, which replaced the EA-6B Prowler, is the fourth major variant of the F/A-18 family of aircraft that combines the proven F/A-18F Super Hornet platform with a sophisticated electronic warfare suite.

The aircraft retains all of the F/A-18E/Fs multi-mission capabilities with its validated design and the capability to perform a wide range of enemy defense suppression missions.

Moreover the extensive commonality between the F/A-18E/F and the EA-18G Growler, as well as its flexible platform, gives the Growler much-needed room for future upgrades and growth.

The first Growler test aircraft went into production in Oct. 2004 and made its first flight in Aug. 2006.

The first production aircraft was delivered on Jun. 3, 2008 to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, the Fleet Replacement Squadron for the type, at NAS Whidbey Island, Wash. Initial operational capability (IOC) and full rate production followed in fall 2009. In 2010, three squadrons, VAQ-132, 141 and 138, transitioned from the Prowler to the Growler and were declared safe-for-flight.

The Scorpions of VAQ-132 deployed to Iraq as an expeditionary squadron from NAS Whidbey Island, in the fall of 2010. The Shadowhawks of VAQ-141 deployed in the spring of 2011 aboard the USS George H. W. Bush.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. EA-18G Growler VAQ-130 Zappers, AC500 / 168268 / 2016

Photo credit: Cmdr. Ian C. Anderson and / U.S. Navy

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

Additional source: U.S. Navy

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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