F-15 crash blamed on rudders
Both rudders of a $43.7 million Hawaii Air National Guard F-15 Eagle jet fighter failed before it crashed at sea in February, the Air Force has concluded.
The veteran pilot was unable to correct the resulting rolling motion and ejected 60 miles south of Oahu, the Air Force said in a written release yesterday.
Lt. Col. Christopher "Frenchy" Faurot told Hawaii Air Guard and Air Force officials that he could not control his plane while he was engaged in a mock aerial dogfight with another Hawaii Air Guard jet and started to lose altitude shortly before the crash Feb. 1.
Faurot, who has been flying with the Hawaii Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron since 1991, was picked up by a Coast Guard helicopter shortly after the 1:37 p.m. crash and taken to the Queen's Medical Center.
Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman, said Faurot, 43, suffered "no serious injuries" and was released after being examined. He returned to flight status three days later.
The plane experienced no problems during an earlier routine exercise that day, Air Guard officials said then.
Faurot's F-15 was destroyed on impact, Anthony said. No attempt will be made to recover the wreckage because the ocean there is more than three miles deep.
Faurot was part of a two-aircraft training mission, involving one-on-one offensive and defensive maneuvering.
An Air Force Accident Investigation Board, convened by Pacific Air Forces, determined that there was no clear and convincing evidence to determine a cause for the mishap.
However, the board did find sufficient evidence to conclude that both rudders in Faurot's jet failed in a midrange position to the left, most likely due to a failure involving the aileron-rudder interconnect.
"This failure induces a yawing, rolling motion to the left that the pilot was unable to correct," the Air Force said in a written statement.
Three weeks before the crash, Faurot's jet had returned to service after undergoing mandatory safety inspections ordered by the Air Force after a Missouri Air National Guard F-15 broke apart in midair on Nov. 2, injuring the pilot. The cause was structural problems with the plane.
Anthony said "there doesn't seem to be any connection" between the Feb. 1 crash and the Nov. 2 incident in Missouri.
Following the Missouri crash, the Air Force grounded all of its 676 F-15s.
The Hawaii Air National Guard crash was the fifth involving the Air Force's aging F-15 fleet, which was designed during the Vietnam War.