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f-22 Raptor Crash (Read 2856 times)
Roger Whitcomb

f-22 Raptor Crash
Dec 23rd, 2004 at 4:14pm
There's a photo of what remained of the F/A-22 online at:

The following is Las Vegas' Review Journal's coverage of the story:

Next Generation F/A-22 Raptor: Stealth fighter crashes

Nellis pilot ejects safely before impact

In the first reported crash of the military's next generation fighter jet, an F/A-22 Raptor slammed into the ground and exploded during takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base Monday afternoon.

The pilot, whose name was not released, ejected safely moments before the crash.

He was taken to Mike O'Callaghan Federal Hospital for evaluation. A Nellis spokeswoman said he was "up and walking around."

A fire engine based at Nellis flipped over as it sped to the scene of the crash, but nobody was injured in the wreck, an Air Force official said.

The crash marked the first mishap involving a Raptor since the Air Force began taking delivery of the aircraft two years ago.

The unarmed F/A-22 destroyed Monday was assigned to the 53rd Wing's 422 Test and Evaluation Squadron. It was one of about 25 Raptors the Air Force has received so far, and one of eight assigned to the testing program that began at Nellis in January 2003.

Equipped with stealth technology to help it evade enemy aircraft, the twin-engine Raptor flies fast enough to cross the 12,000-square-mile Nellis range in seven minutes. It can drop bombs, fire air-to-air missiles and shoot a six-barrel cannon.

But as the cost of the F/A-22 has swelled, estimates range from $130 million to $250 million each, the number of aircraft the Pentagon plans to buy has shrunk from 750 to about 300, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Nellis Air Force Base expects to receive nine more Raptors in the next five or six years. The aircraft is scheduled to become combat ready in 2005.

"It is by far the most advanced aircraft, not only in the U.S. fleet but in the world," said Maj. Gen. Stephen Goldfein, commander of Nellis' Air Warfare Center.

Goldfein said all aircraft at the base will be grounded this morning until the crash site is inspected in daylight. The seven remaining Raptors at Nellis will undergo a thorough inspection before they are flown again, he said.

The inspections could take hours and be done today or they could take several days, Goldfein said.

"The purpose, of course, is to prevent anything like this from happening again," he said. "Obviously, we are looking for the specific reason why the accident occurred."

Goldfein said the plane wasn't high off the ground when the pilot ejected from the cockpit.

"As soon as the pilot grabs the handle, within a second the whole system works," he said of the ejection process.

Nellis closed its runways immediately following the accident, which sent a large plume of black smoke billowing into the sky over North Las Vegas.

Four F-16C Fighting Falcons assigned to the Air Force's precision Thunderbirds flying team landed at McCarran International Airport while the runways at Nellis were closed. McCarran spokeswoman Debbie Millett said the arrival of the Thunderbirds did not cause any delays for commercial flights.

The crash was at least the fourth involving a military aircraft in Southern Nevada this year.

On Nov. 9, a $40 million Navy F-18 Hornet went down north of Las Vegas shortly after take-off. Both the pilot, who ejected safely, and his single-seat aircraft were assigned to the Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia.

In June, an Air Force pilot safely ejected from a military jet that crashed during a training mission about 70 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Five people were killed in a March crash involving an Air Force plane ferrying contractors to a remote part of the Nellis Test Range about 125 miles northwest of the base.

The last known crash within Nellis Air Force Base itself occurred in March 1996, when an F-15C Eagle fighter jet slammed into the ground and exploded on takeoff. The Langley, Va., pilot ejected safely.

The only other reported accident involving the F-22 was a non-fatal crash landing that occurred during testing and development of the aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base in 1992.
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Roger Whitcomb

Re: f-22 Raptor Crash
Reply #1 - Jan 7th, 2005 at 5:21pm
F/A-22 resumes flying at Tyndall after Dec. 20 Nevada crash

All F/A-22 Raptors were cleared to resume flying Thursday for the first time since the new stealth fighters were grounded after a Dec. 20 crash in Nevada, Air Force officials said.

Tyndall is the Air Force's only training base for Raptor pilots. Thirteen of the service's 28 F/A-22's are based at Tyndall AFB, Fla..

They were grounded as a precaution after the crash at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Safety and accident investigation boards have not completed their work, but senior Air Force leaders believe the Raptor can be flown safely based on preliminary results.

"We have confidence in our current flying procedures,and any lessons learned from the Nellis incident will be applied to the F/A-22 program here," said Brig. Gen. Jack Egginton, commander of Tyndall's 325th Fighter Wing.

A cause of the crash has not yet been disclosed. The pilot suffered scrapes but was otherwise unharmed. Eight F/A-22s are stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and seven at Nellis.

Tyndall's 43rd Fighter Squadron is expected to receive 10 more Raptors over the next several months to reach full strength at 23 planes.

A second training squadron is planned here but could be eliminated because of budget cuts. Proposed production numbers for the jets, each costing about $133 million, have dropped from 750 to 381 and Pentagon officials have proposed additional cuts in the program.

Source: AP (6th January, 2004)
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Roger Whitcomb

Re: f-22 Raptor Crash
Reply #2 - Jan 7th, 2005 at 5:32pm
Test aircraft crashes soon after takeoff; search for the cause is in high gear
F/A-22 Takes a Fall

Early analysis of the recent Lockheed Martin F/A-22 crash at Nellis AFB, Nev., is, for the most part, producing theories of what did not cause the accident.

But Air Force officials fear that with Congress looking to cut programs in order to finance more ground troops it is almost certain the mishap will further delay production, and ultimately jeopardize the stealth fighter's future.

THE TEST DID NOT involve flying with a heavy ferry-load of fuel, shifting the aircraft's center of gravity or taking off with insufficient speed.

"It was a routine flight with no unusual configuration of external fuel tanks or weapon stores," says a senior Air Force official. "The problem appeared on takeoff after liftoff. The pilot's only input to the flight controls was [upward] pitch. There was no engine problem. There was a pitch command and all of a sudden the nose went down. The pilot had about 1.5 sec. to react, so he ejected."

There were areas of immediate interest. One early inquiry involved determining if there was an aircraft taking off on a parallel runway that could have produced a wake or vortices that affected the F/A-22.

In September, an F/A-22 was stressed to 10-11g, past its operational limit of 9g, when flying through the wake of an F-16 while carrying external fuel tanks. The overstressing was blamed on a glitch in the digital flight control software that produced a violent pitch reaction. Gain in the pitch controls was set too high in the earlier accident. Its response was calibrated for low-altitude operations instead of high-altitude flight where it was maneuvering at the time of the incident, according to Air Force officials.

"The high-rate command was supposed to have been ironed out," the senior Air Force official said. "That problem was fixed, but the software could still have some squirrels in it." The aircraft involved in the incident has remained grounded and USAF officials are still uncertain whether it will ever fly again.

An Air Force official notes: "Now that we understand the sensitivity to turbulence with external fuel tanks, we have identified modifications to our flight control software to preclude this from happening again." The adjustments have been tried out in a laboratory and are being incorporated in the aircraft for flight testing.

THE FAULT LEADING to the crash also is unlikely to have been associated with the assembly process. The aircraft is one of a small number of production representative test vehicles built starting in 1999. These aircraft were assembled between the development phase and before the Air Force was given the green light to commence low-rate production. The mishap aircraft had about 150 hr. on it and was delivered to Nellis in 2002.

The Air Force suspended flights of all F/A-22s soon after the Dec. 20 crash. The service has seven F/A-22s remaining at Nellis, with eight at Edwards AFB, Calif., and 13 at the training unit at Tyndall AFB, Fla.

The still-unnamed pilot was conducting a training mission and was unharmed. This test pilot and Weapons School graduate has about 60 hr. in the F/A-22, making him one of the more experienced pilots in the aircraft, says Maj. Gen. Stephen Goldfein, commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis.

The Air Force has convened its two standard post-accident review boards. Brig. Gen. Kurt Cichowski, commander of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, N.M., will lead the safety board. The accident board will be headed by the Air Combat Command's Col. Ted Kresge.

The only other crash of the design was a YF-22, early in the program, as the result of pitch control problems.Over-sensitive controls produced violent altitude oscillations that ended in a wheels-up landing from which the pilot walked.

Lockheed Martin was hoping to complete assessment of the aircraft's critical military requirements and obtain permission to ramp up to full-rate production of 32 aircraft per year.

In late March, Pentagon officials are slated to review the program's progress. However, the hiatus in flight ops may delay that event. USAF officials had hoped to declare the first F/A-22 operational unit ready in December, although acquisition officials have hinted that the milestone may slip into 2006.
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