If you are going to use the phrase “Top Gun” in your callsign, you should be able to get your $140 million F-22A Raptor off the runway. “Top Gun 65” had some issues with exactly that. A new report says the rookie pilot pulled the nose up too early. It was a short and dramatic flight, and a bit of a rough landing.
The report on the April 13, 2018 incident notes that Top Gun 65 pulled the nose up too soon and was taking off too slowly.
The pilot was supposed to be engaging an F-18 Hornet in Basic Flight Maneuvers near Naval Air Station Fallon, in Nevada.
The sudden landing didn’t give Top Gun 65 time to deploy his landing gear.
“The F-22 took off going 23 knots below the recommended speed,” the report found, “which was fast enough to leave the ground but too slow to keep the plane in the air.”
After the crash, all F-22 pilots had to undergo additional training to avoid similar mishaps. Top Gun 65 was, they’d found, not the only pilot who was pulling up too soon.
In what must have been a further indignity, the Air Force noted that the pilot was performing a graduation exercise from the TOPGUN program.
The plane slid 6514 feet on its belly after touching down. The pilot safely exited the aircraft after the crash. It is unclear just how badly the plane was damaged in the incident.
“There were no injuries, fatalities, or damage to civilian property,” USAF Colonel Jacob Trigler, president of the Accident Investigation Board, wrote in a statement.
“The MP [mishap pilot] failed to ensure that he was operating the aircraft IAW [in accordance with] valid TOLD [takeoff and landing data] and then prematurely retracted the LG [landing gear],” the report read.
“If the MP had performed his takeoff sequence IAW the correct TOLD or if he delayed his LG retraction until the MA [mishap aircraft] had accelerated to the correct takeoff speed, this mishap would not have occurred.”
“[T]he organization factors contributing to this mishap were significant in influencing and shaping the MP’s actions,” the report read. In other words, his training had something to do with the steps he took and the results of those steps. These pilots had an “inadequate flight brief, organizational acceptance of an incorrect technique, formal training, and organizational overconfidence in equipment.”
“The technique of rotating early will not by itself cause this type of accident. However, rotating early starts a sequence of events that can lead to an early takeoff and early gear retraction. This situation is magnified when an aircraft is operating at a high elevation airfield where aircraft performance is decreased.”
“There is a clear trend of rotating early among a significant number of F-22 pilots, including the MP, despite being aware of computed TOLD.”