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September 29, 2023 4:21 am

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F-35C Mishap On USS Carl Vinson Caused By Pilot Error After ‘Sierra Hotel Break’

F-35C crash
F-35C crash
Body from the leaked video exhibiting the F-35C crash. Within the field, file photograph of the crashed F-35C. (U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Larissa T. Dougherty)

The investigation discovered that the pilot didn’t activate two touchdown help instruments that robotically alter throttle and keep the angle of assault, resulting in low energy method.

A yr after a F-35C Lightning II suffered a ramp strike on the USS Carl Vinson, ensuing within the lack of the plane and a number of sailors being injured, the findings of the investigation at the moment are public, in addition to the detailed circumstances of the mishap. The investigation report, obtained by USNI News, reveals that the pilot didn’t activate two touchdown help instruments constructed within the F-35’s avionics, leading to a lower than splendid pace in the course of the remaining method to the plane service.

The crash occurred on January 24, 2022, at roughly 1630 native time, whereas the USS Carl Vinson was working within the South China Sea. The official investigation was accomplished and released on February 16, 2023. Whereas the investigation identified that the reason for the mishap was discovered to be pilot error, it additionally identified that the error was not a results of reckless actions or malicious intent.

“The mishap pilot (MP) tried an expedited restoration breaking overhead the service, an authorized and customary maneuver, however the MP had by no means carried out this maneuver earlier than, and it decreased the period of time to configure the plane and conduct touchdown checks,” the report stated. “On account of the compressed timeline and the MP’s lack of familiarity with the maneuver, the MP misplaced situational consciousness and failed to finish his touchdown guidelines. Particularly, the MP remained in guide mode when he ought to have been (and thought he was) in an automatic command mode designed to cut back pilot workload throughout landings.”

The pilot, on his first deployment and assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 “Argonauts”, is outlined within the report as one of many high performing junior officers in Service Air Wing 2, with 650.3 flight hours underneath his belt, of which 370.7 within the F-35C Lightning II. In line with the report, “The MP was a earlier High-5 Nugget and a High-10 ball-flyer inside CVW-2, indicating that his touchdown efficiency on the ship had been distinctive for a first-tour junior officer (JO)”.

Modex NE-406, BUNO 169304, because it launches off the USS Carl Vinson in 2021.

When the mishap occurred, the pilot was coming back from a routine four-hour mission with the callsign JASON 406, accompanied by one other F-35C performing as flight lead. Whereas returning to the plane service, the pilot requested to carry out the so-called “Shit Sizzling” break for the primary time. Here’s what our Editor David Cenciotti wrote concerning the Shit Sizzling break in a story in December 2022:

“The “break” is the tight flip carried out by plane recovering aboard a service to enter the downwind leg of the visitors sample. Typically talking, primarily based on CV NATOPS Handbook, a regular method would see the plane getting into the visitors sample on the preliminary (3 miles astern, 800 ft) wings stage, paralleling the BRC (Base Restoration Course) – the magnetic heading of the ship (it’s price noticing that the ultimate method heading is just not the identical because the BRC due to the angled deck.

The break is normally carried out because the plane overflies the flight deck or additional upwind. However, if the flip is carried out with additional pace and proper at or barely aft (behind) the ship, then it’s referred to as a Shit Sizzling Break (SHB). A SHB provides extra stress on the pilot, because the touchdown turns into rather more troublesome: there’s little room to repair something in the course of the method as this turns into a steady 360-degree flip to touchdown.”

The investigation report offers one other definition of the maneuvers, formally named as “expedited restoration” or “Sierra Resort” break, with some extra particulars:

“An expedited restoration maneuver is when an plane initiates a flip to downwind from both behind the ship or excessive of the ship. Based mostly on airspeed, break location, and G- forces utilized to an plane, there are numerous varieties of expedited recoveries (additionally known as a Sierra Resort Break (SHB)).

The expedited restoration maneuver is commonplace in naval aviation and it will probably scale back the quantity of open deck time as a ready deck is waiting for a recovering aircraft. Throughout an expedited restoration, an plane makes use of G-forces to decelerate over the course of a 360-degree flip, dropping the touchdown gear when the plane is beneath touchdown gear transition pace. When breaking aft of the ship or overhead the ship, a pilot has a decreased period of time to configure the plane and conduct touchdown checks.”

Frames from the leaked video exhibiting the F-35C because it hits the deck and skids sideways engulfed in flames.

The report then goes on detailing the occasions that led to the mishap. JASON 406 initiated the break whereas over the Landing Signal Officer’s platform, with flight knowledge exhibiting a 400 KCAS, 7 G break whereas in most afterburner. The throttle was positioned to flight idle after about 30 seconds from the break, and was not moved once more till 2.6 seconds previous to impression.

“The MP defined that he tried avoiding a large method sample by sustaining his pull (retaining G on the airplane) in an try and get beneath 300 KCAS (touchdown gear extension pace restrict)”, says the report. “He described pulling the ship to the nostril on the 90 after which dropping the touchdown gear as he focused an acceptable groove-distance. After dropping the touchdown gear, MP put down the arresting hook, however he couldn’t recall deciding on APC.”

APC is without doubt one of the two touchdown help instruments that the F-35C offers to help pilots throughout touchdown on an plane service, the Strategy Energy Compensation Mode (APC) and the Delta Flight Path (DFP). When activated, DFP robotically adjusts the throttle to maintain the plane on right glide scope to land on a service, whereas the APC maintains the fighter’s angle of assault.

“The MP didn’t bear in mind deciding on or confirming that he had chosen APC for touchdown”, mentions the investigation. “The MP acknowledged that he didn’t choose DFP as a result of he was working arduous to get the airplane slowed to optimum method AOA, on glideslope, and on centerline.”

In actual fact, the F-35 was flying the method sooner than supposed, including to the stress of the high-paced maneuver, and the pilot made corrections to get the jet on the appropriate flight parameters.

“The MP recalled being uncomfortable on the 45 as a result of the airplane was taking a very long time to decelerate to optimum method pace (12.3 levels AOA) and the ship was getting nearer”, says the report. “Largely resulting from being at a faster-than-normal airspeed, the MP additionally defined that he was seeing a distinct sight-picture within the method flip from what was typical”.

The report particulars how the plane was flying at round 180 knots, above the glideslope and with a non-optimal Angle of Assault, main the pilot to consider the LSO were going to wave off his landing attempt. The F-35C was anticipated to fly with an optimum  method AOA of 12.3 levels, which accounting the plane configuration and the gasoline load would yield an optimum method pace of 140 knots.

Because the F-35C approached the optimum method AOA and pace, the pilot tried so as to add energy by rising aft stick enter, realizing that the jet was extremely underpowered because it stored slowing down and descending. The pilot then first set the throttle to army energy after which most afterburner as soon as he realized that the plane was failing to climb, nevertheless “the MA continued decelerating to a pace of roughly 120 KCAS and elevated AOA to 16 levels earlier than placing the ramp at 123.5 KCAS and 21 levels AOA”.

Because the investigation discovered, the pilot turned process saturated in the course of the Sierra Resort break, and this led to the failure to comply with the guidelines and activate the touchdown help instruments, which in flip resulted within the flawed flight parameters for the ultimate method to the plane service.

“The MP defined that he didn’t full his touchdown guidelines as a result of he was overwhelmed by an abundance of duties (a situation often called process saturation),” states the report. “The MP described decreasing his Touchdown Gear (step 1), dropping the Arresting Hook (step 2), having his Land Taxi lights as required (step 3), however he failed to verify that he had engaged APC/DFP (step 4).”

Because the plane impacted the flight deck, the LAU-151 missile rail on the left wing, usually used to hold externally AIM-9X missiles, caught the wire and caused the aircraft to start a counter-clockwise rotation. This, in accordance with the investigation, seemingly stored the wreckage from impacting different personnel, gear and plane on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.

As we already reported, six folks have been injured in the course of the mishap, together with the pilot. The pilot was injured in the course of the ejection, after which he was rescued by a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter of Helicopter Sea Fight Squadron 4 (HSC-4) “Black Knights” performing as aircraft guard helicopter in the course of the restoration of fastened wing plane aboard the plane service. The F-35C wreckage was later recovered on March 2, 2022 from a depth of roughly 12,400 ft.

An EA-18G Growler, IRONCLAW 503 (BUNO 169211) was additionally broken by particles from the mishap. The plane was parked on the elevator 3 and suffered injury to the fuselage pores and skin and inner elements. The damaged Growler was inducted by Fleet Readiness Heart Southwest’s (FRCSW), the place damages the place assessed to be in extra of greater than $2.5 million. The crash additionally resulted in roughly $120,000 in injury to Carl Vinson’s flight deck.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally finding out to attain a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT methods utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.

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