Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

March-April 2008

Illustration by Ted Wilbur

Goshawk Goat Rope

A student Naval Aviator was piloting a T-45 on a night solo field carrier landing practice flight. The pilot had completed five touch-and-go landings and was directed by the landing signal officer at the field to full stop on his next pass.

The pilot touched down on runway centerline and tracked relatively straight down the runway, but after approximately 1,700 feet of landing rollout, the aircraft began a pronounced drift right of centerline. The pilot applied corrective controls, bringing the aircraft parallel to runway heading just right of centerline. The aircraft continued to track nearly parallel to runway centerline for approximately three seconds, whereupon the aircraft began a hard left swerve, bringing the nose of the aircraft about 20 degrees left of runway heading. Immediately following the hard left swerve, the pilot advanced the throttle to military in an attempt to execute a go-around.

The aircraft crossed runway centerline at military power and exited the left side of the runway. A couple of seconds after runway departure, the pilot retarded power to idle and shut down the engine.

Immediately following engine shutdown, the aircraft hit the first of three natural earthen berms and began a counterclockwise tumbling roll about its longitudinal axis. The aircraft rolled one and a half times before coming to rest inverted approximately 1,000 feet from the point of runway departure. Crash and salvage personnel witnessed the mishap and were first on the scene, shattering the front canopy and pulling the uninjured student from the aircraft wreckage. Luckily no fire occurred during the mishap.

Grampaw Pettibone says…

What’s that ol’ saying? “This runway ain’t long but it sure is wide …” Pointing 20 degrees in the wrong direction is going to severely limit how much prepared surface a pilot has available to get airborne again. In this case, the decision to firewall this unruly Goshawk only made things worse.

As soon as he knew he was going ‘’baja,” this here student (do we still call ‘em “coneheads”?) should have shut the motors down-not a couple of seconds after the fact. And then when he saw he was headed for rough sailing with those berms (assuming he could see at night) he should have ejected.

In this case, the student was lucky he survived the tumble and that the jet didn’t burn. I’m thinking this cat is down to seven lives as he hits the fleet. Don’t waste ‘em, shipmate.