Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

May-June 1999

Illustration by Ted Wilbur 

Divert Debacle

A student naval aviator awoke at 0325 for a 0500 course rules brief before a carrier qualification flight in a T-45 Goshawk aboard a carrier off the coast. The primary divert field assigned was the naval air station (NAS) from which the flight would depart. The secondary was a Navy field on the coast.

After a flight briefing at 0600, the aircraft departed for the carrier. Due to marginal weather, however, it had to return to the NAS, arriving at 1015. The student later attended an impromptu all officers meeting to discuss safety issues relating to a T-45 mishap that occurred in another squadron. After the meeting and lunch, the student briefed for a second launch to the boat, and at 1500 took off once again for the carrier.

The student received a “Charlie” signal on arrival at the carrier and let down into the pattern where he made two touch and goes. Subsequently, he made two hook-down passes, waving off both times. At this point he was at bingo fuel and was directed by the tower to divert to shore and proceed with an emergency bingo divert profile. A lead/safe instructor was assigned to join the student and escort him to a land base.

Because of bad weather and radio and tactical aid to navigation problems, the join-up was delayed. When they had rendezvoused, the instructor assumed the “communications lead” but not the actual flight lead as required by a Chief of Naval Air Training instruction. The instructor told the student to land at the Navy facility on the coast, even though the student had sufficient fuel to safely execute a divert to the NAS launch point with which he was more familiar.

The flight descended and broke out of the weather and into the clear at 2,600 feet, over water, with the runway visible 10 miles in the distance. The instructor reminded the student to drop his gear and flaps at 7 miles. The student had failed to perform his feet-dry checks prior to the approach, however, and didn’t complete his landing checklist on final. Although he verified that his gear and flaps were down and speed brakes extended, he had omitted the aircraft anti-skid from the checklist and the system was not actuated. Also, the student was surprised to note the field did not have a Fresnel lens for landing. He touched down nearly 2,000 feet from the approach end and hit the brakes while rolling out at 115 knots. Because anti-skid was deselected, the starboard main landing tire blew. The student was unable to counter the T-45’s swerve to the right. The Goshawk departed the runway and flipped over. The student struck the instrument panel but suffered only minor lacerations and abrasions from the impact and from the shattered canopy. A physical exam revealed the student was fatigued dehydrated and poorly nourished at the time of the accident.

Grampaw Pettibone says…

Light a blow torch and singe my whiskers one more time! What can ole Gramps say about checklists but USE THEM! Blowin’ a tire on a fast rollout is absolutely no fun. And it can be disastrous when you’re exhausted, hungry and badly need a drink of water. The lead/safe pilot wasn‘t a lot of help here. “Task saturated” is the term used nowadays to describe a situation where a flier has too much to do and not enough time to do It. Add the stress factor, lack of sleep, food and water and the recipe produces trouble with a capital “T.”