Pilot remembers wild ride
Lt. Col. Christopher "Frenchy" Faurot was forced to eject sideways when both of the rudders on his $43.7 million F-15 jet fighter failed during a training mission 60 miles south of Oahu five months ago.
» Type: Single-seat jet fighter
» Length: 62 feet
» Wingspan: 44 feet
» Cost: $137 million
» Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney turbofans
» Speed: Mach 1.5 (1,140 mph)
» Ceiling: Above 50,000 feet
» Range: 1,995 miles
» Delivered to date: 122
Source: U.S. Air Force
Talking about the Feb. 1 accident for the first time yesterday, Faurot said "it's probably the world's best roller coaster ride. You only want to do it once."
Faurot, 42, was in a mock aerial dogfight with another Hawaii Air Guard jet when his fighter started to lose altitude.
He said his jet was in "a descending spiral at a 90 degree angle going towards 4,000 feet" when he lost control of the jet, forcing him to eject.
"I was going downhill a lot at about 250 miles per hour," said Faurot, who has been flying F-15 jets with the Hawaii Air National Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron for 15 years. Faurot said his parachute opened when he was 1,000 feet above the whitecaps.
"It's obviously not something I want to repeat," said Faurot, who has 2,000 flight hours piloting the F-15. "It is something I would have rather not done in my entire career ... but the F-15 is just getting older. We keep modifying it, but it's 30 years old. The more we fly in this dynamic, demanding environment, the more -- I hate to say this -- but things like this will occur."
Faurot, who is coordinating the Hawaii Air National Guard's change over to F-22 Raptor jets, believes he was "blessed."
"I thank God everyday that I am here and was able to survive that event. It was an aircraft malfunction."
Faurot added the F-15's ejection system is "well-designed," "well-thought-out" and well-maintained.
An Air Force Accident Investigation Board determined that there was no clear and convincing evidence to determine a cause for the accident because the F-15 was not recovered. However, the board did find sufficient evidence to conclude that both rudders in Faurot's jet failed.
No attempt was made to recover the wreckage because the ocean there is more than three miles deep.
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. Following the Missouri crash, the Air Force grounded all 676 of its F-15s.
The Hawaii Air National Guard crash was the fifth involving the Air Force's aging fleet. The F-15 was designed during the Vietnam War.
The Hawaii Air Guard's 199th Squadron has been flying the F-15 Eagles since 1987.