The military has recovered the canopy which detached from an F-15 fighter jet at 10,000 meters during a training flight, the IDF said on Tuesday.
The canopy was found Monday night near Hebron and will be transferred to air force technicians who will inspect it as part of their investigation to determine why it suddenly came off mid-flight without any warning last Wednesday.
The pilot, Capt. Y., and the navigator 1st Lt. R., had taken off from the Tel Nof airbase in central Israel and headed south. During the flight the canopy suddenly detached for unknown reasons, leaving the two pilots exposed to severe cold of -45 °C, violent turbulence and deafening noise.
“At what height are you going to stay at,” a voice is heard in audio recording of the incident released by the Air Force on Monday.
The sound of the cockpit detaching and subsequent screaming is then heard before Capt. Y. radios the ground controller “coming in for a landing at the nearest base without a canopy. Please confirm.”
The plane’s navigator, 1st Lt. R., then asked the pilot if he was all right, who screams back “Yes, everything is alright,” he replied. The navigator then confirmed that he too was all right. Reducing their speed to 200 knots, they again contacted the tower to inform them that they were heading to the airbase for “an immediate landing” at Nevatim airbase east of Beersheba.
“The air crew in the plane had full control of the incident throughout,” the IDF said in a statement on Monday. The airmen “acted with calm, professionalism and expertise in handling the unusual fault, and brought the plane to a safe landing at the Nevatim Air Force Base.”
Following the incident, IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin ordered a stop to all training flights for the F-15 pending the completion of an investigation.
The IDF said that in the past 40 years there have been three similar failures in F-15 aircraft, but all of them are at a lower altitude.
“This is a very rare incident,” a senior IAF officer told reporters on Monday about the 40-year-old jet, adding “We are already in contact with the American manufacturer to understand the nature of the problem and its source.”
The IAF, which is in contact with Boeing which manufactures the jet, is investigating several possible reasons the canopy detached. According to the senior officer, these include a failure in the pyrotechnic mechanisms of the canopy, a failure in its locking mechanism, or a malfunction in the canopy’s other components.
Most of the IAF’s F-15s were acquired in the second half of the 1970s. A more advanced squadron of F-15s arrived in the 1990s.
The IAF is set to soon place orders on several new aircraft to upgrade its aging squadrons, including a new model of the F-15IA from Boeing.
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