The pilot who wrecked a 90th Fighter Squadron F-22A Raptor shortly after takeoff is being held partially responsible following an investigation of the April crash.
Incorrect takeoff & landing data and lax airmanship appear to be the reasons why the Alaska-based F-22 skidded on its belly at Nevada’s Naval Air Station Fallon on April 13, mere seconds after the landing gear retracted.
The Air Force F-22 -which was supposed to take part in a Navy “Top Gun” ceremony- apparently had problems before the pilot even climbed into the cockpit. At the time of takeoff, the takeoff & landing data had the aircraft set for a 10,000-foot runway, while NAS Fallon’s runway is 13,961 feet long. Furthermore, the temperature input was almost 40 degrees off.
When the pilot attempted takeoff, the aircraft was going at speeds much slower than needed to obtain proper lift, resulting in a half-hearted takeoff followed by a taxpayer heart attack-inducing belly landing.
While the pilot used visual cues to determine he was airborne before retracting the landing gear, he did not verify with his instruments before making the call and retracted prematurely. Due to this oversight, there were no wheels to assist the Raptor when its aft section hit the runway, forcing the nose down and resulting in the skid.
After the aircraft skidded to a stop over 9,400 feet from the runway threshold, the pilot -no doubt concerned for his career- exited the aircraft without further incident.
The crash report shows that the takeoff mistake is not that uncommon with F-22 pilots and that while all but one F-22 base is located around sea level, the pilots still have a habit of nosing up too early.
“There is a clear trend of rotating early among a significant number of F-22 pilots, including the [mishap pilot], despite being aware of computer [takeoff and landing data],” the report read.
In fact, around eighty percent of Raptor drivers are taking off at speeds around five knots lower than their takeoff speed. While that isn’t an issue at sea level, it could prove fatal when the aircraft aren’t taking off on their home turf.
One pilot in the report commented that the F-22 community “takes it for granted that we have a lot of power and that this jet will generally take off from any runway that you want it to take off from.”
Other factors were included in the crash, to include inadequate flight briefings, overconfidence in equipment and a recurring issue of pilots prematurely retracting landing gear.
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