Page born:April 01 2002

[8th FS F-117A after a mishap on HAFB Runway 22.]

Aircraft Mishaps

The following are accounts of mishaps that have occurred involving the F-117A. Mishaps are classified into three categories:

Lightning Strike

On at least one occasion, an F-117A was hit by lightning on the nose during the eighties. Rumors have been abound that only one pitot tube was operating, or even possibly left. Apparently, there is one story that makes the most sense. Lightning hit the aircraft, knocked out 2 of the 4 pitot tubes (not physically removing them, but the pressure of the strike created enough pressure to bust the diaphragms.) It also made a couple of pieces of RAM fall off around the static discharge areas (primitive RAM at the time), and knocked out a few electronic systems, which ones, are unknown.

Canopy Loss

F-117A #790 lost its canopy during flight on 199?. Duringthe EOR (End Of Runway) inspection before a eachflight, one of the checklisted items the crew chiefasks the pilot is if the canopy is secured, locked, and the"Canopy Unsafe" light out. Apparently the pilot nodded that all was well anddidn't notice the light illuminated. (The light is on the far right side of theforward instrument at kind of an odd angle.) Somewhere along his sortie,he did notice the light. (Probably after the sun wentdown and the light was extremely visible.)

The pilot under these circumstances is supposed to return to base immediatly. For some reason on his way back to base, he apparently pulled the unlock mechanism backever so slightly to reseat the lever. This was justenough for air to get underneath the lip of thecanopy. At 400 mph the air literally ripped the canopyoff and with it took the pilot's helmet and mask aswell as everything not stowed inside the cockpit. Hedid succesfully land the aircraft and was treated for severefrostbite.

The pilot ended up recieving a medal for his actions. The canopy itself supposedly was barely damaged in the incident and the aircraft was soon back into service. This incident was classified as a Class B mishap.

Desert Storm

During Desert Storm some minor mishaps did occur, but nothing that put any aircraft out of commission for the campaign. One night a Ghost Rider aircraft landed with apparent battle damage. It turned out to be a piece of RAM that had popped off during the flight. Col. Al Whitley remembered that "everybody's first reaction was, 'Oh my God, the airplane's been hit!' Of course, when you looked at it, that didn't make sense. It just popped. A portion of a fixed surface on the bottom part of the tail had delaminated. It's characteristic of what happens if you go a little too fast, and, it turned out, if you go back and look at the records of the airplane that was produced before it, and the airplane that was produced after it, both of them had the same problem happen over time. So we suspect that somewhere in the production cycle, when those components were constructed, that maybe there was some curing problem or something like that which contributed to problems with the structural integrity."

This is not to say that mishaps did not happen that grounded aircraft for a few days. Usually it was something that was common, but time-consuming to fix, like a fuel leak that might tie up maintainers for five or six days. On other occasions, it was simple human carelessness. "You're supposed to have a fire truck when you're doing a certain procedure," said Whitley, "and one night, some kid inadvertently hit a switch which filled the cockpit with water. It was no biggie, but the plane was down for two or three days until they dried everything out."

On the 24th night (February 10th) of the war, the third wave of F-117A's was landing after conducting a ten-plane attack on the Samarra chemical bunkers when aircraft #790, "Deadly Jester", blew a nose wheel on landing. Luckily, the pilot was unhurt and the aircraft was moving slowly enough that only three probes were damaged on its delicate snout, in addition to the right E-bay panel, which was struck by pieces of the tire. "Deadly Jester" was quickly put back into service, and made roughly ten more trips over Iraq to end the air campaign with 30 combat missions.

F-117A #824

On April 5, 1995 a pilot escaped injury when his F-117A #824 burns during a landing at Holloman AFB while participating in the 'Roving Sands' exercise. This was a mishap as a result of a known deficiency. A full 8 months prior to the mishap, the depot discovered an unknown quantity of fuel recycling kits were produced with manifolds that could not withstand normal in-flight vibrations. Unfortunately, the PQDR system did not ensure a timely resolution of the problem. When the mishap aircraft's No. 1 engine fuel recycling kit manifold failed, the massive fuel leak caused both a fuel imbalance and an engine nacelle fire. According to eyewitness reports the aircraft "caught fire and exploded on the runway. The remains were apparently blocking the runway for quite a while."

Several actions are being taken as a result of this mishap. The recycle kit has been deactivated in the interim until a redesigned manifold is available. Life limits/inspection intervals are also being established for the recycle kit. The PQDR risk categorization and tracking procedures are being revised to ensure safety-related PQDRs get appropriate emphasis.

As a note the information above was published in Feb 1996, and the redesigned manifold is probably in operation currently. This was listed as a Class A mishap-those that resulted in a fatality, destruction of the aircraft or at least $1 million in repair costs.

The webmaster had heard that the cost of repairs was 12 million dollars. However, LMSW recieved a contract for $6,132,010 to "provide for fuselage repairs to one F-117A aircraft". The contract (Contract Number: No. 600-95) was expected to be completed July 1997. It was originally solicited in Dec 1995, negoations completed in April 1996, and the contract was issued on May 20, 1996. This time period coencides with the #824 mishap.

F-117A #843

On February 23, 1996 #843 experienced a failed power takeoff (PTO) shaft. Shortly after takeoff, "Affectionately Christine" developed problems. As the pilot turned back to base, the left engine fire light illuminated. The pilot landed successfully and ground egressed. The PTO shaft between the F404-GE-F1D2 engine's accessory gearbox and the aircraft mounted accessory drive failed. New high-speed balancing procedures are being developed to ensure there's no imbalance in the system after assembly. This incident was listed as a Class B mishap.

FY 1996

In Fiscal Year 1996 there were no Class A's, only one Class B, and four Class C mishaps. The Class B resulted from the failed power takeoff (PTO) shaft mentioned above. The Class C mishaps involved a misrouted cross-bleed detector loop, failed oil pressure transducer, damage to a UHF antenna which occurred during air refueling, and failure of the right main landing gear upper scissor link. This year also experienced four foreign object damage (FOD) mishaps. Of note, two of the mishaps occurred when a scribe tool and a roll of tape were ingested during engine maintenance runs.

F-117A #803

On May 1, 1997 #803 experienced a mishap as the aircraft landed at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. This account was published in the Dec 1997 issue of "Air Safety Magazine":

[F-117A #803 post accident.(USAF)]"Mishap No. 1 involved a wind gust, a less than optimum "aerobrake" (taken from the AFI 51-503 reports), and publications that were less than complete or explicit. The doughty aviator employed an aerobrake technique that foreshadowed the precise so that when the headwind hit on landing roll, the combined wind and aircraft energy was enough to propel the mishap aircraft about 100 feet in the air, much to the chagrin of the Mishap Pilot. There being no such thing as a free lunch, or in this case, free energy, the wind shifted to a tailwind and down goes the Nighthawk to the demise of the nose gear and much of the nose structure." The incident occured on Holloman's Runway 22.
The F-117A, assigned to 8th FS (other reliable sources say 9th FS) , was returning from a routine training mission, in conjunction with a local exercise, when at about 9 p.m. the mishap occurred. The mishap pilot was not injured, and ground egressed without incident.You can see by the photo that the pitot probes did in fact engage the BAK-12 cable at the departure end of the runway.

The aircraft was repaired at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale Calif., and returned to flying status in August 1998.

Major Ward Juedeman

On Novermber 21, 1997 a mishap was avoided with the help of luck and a good pilot. Major Ward Juedeman, 7th Fighter Squadron, was returning to Holloman from an F-117A day surface attack tactics training mission with approximately 15 minutes of fuel remaining.

[Maj. Ward Juedeman, 7th FS.(ACC)]After lowering the gear handle, Maj Juedeman noted that he only had a nose and right main geardown and locked indication with a red light in the handle. He quickly tested the lights, which checked good,and proceeded to break out of the overhead pattern leaving the gear down. Maj Juedeman declared anemergency, switched to the single frequency approach, and requested a safety chase. Since no other aircraftwere airborne, the supervisor of flying immediately launched a T-38A that was taxiing for takeoff. Afterrejoining with the safety chase, Maj Juedeman was informed that the nose and right main gear were indeeddown and locked with the left main gear up and the gear door closed. Referencing the checklist, Maj Juedemanattempted to raise the landing gear, but neither gear moved, leaving the aircraft in a configuration whichrecommends ejection. Maj Juedeman put the gear handle back down with no effect, and then attempted tolower the gear using the landing gear emergency extension system. After approximately 5 seconds the left maingear unlocked, deployed by gravity and air loads, and appeared to lock into place. Maj Juedeman then flew aflawless straight-in approach and landing. After stopping straight ahead on the runway the aircraft was pinned,shut down, and towed to parking.

Major Juedeman was awarded Air Combat Command's Quarterly Flight Safety Award for the second quarter of 1998. The safety award Major Juedeman won states: Major Juedeman's outstanding airmanship, flying skills and coolness under pressure resulted in the successful recovery of an irreplaceable Air Force combat asset.

F-117A #814

[.(Combat Edge)]In the March 1998 issue of the "Combat Edge", five Holloman members of the 49th MXS were awarded the GROUND SAFETY INDIVIDUAL AWARD OF DISTINCTION. They were: SSgt Pate Jones, SSgt Theo Jones, SSgt Thomas Walsh, SSgt Daniel Jackson, A1C Carl Berridge.

"At 1815 hours in building 877 (8th Fighter Squadron Phase Dock), the above mentioned individuals were preparing to accomplish a nose landing gear door rig on aircraft 814. SSgt Theo Jones connected the DC power cord to the aircraft and hydraulic mule as SSgts Pate Jones, Walsh, and Jackson, and A1C Berridge assumed their normal positions. After the safe for maintenance inspections and input conditions were taken care of, the signal was given to start the electrical power cart. As Sgt Theo Jones pushed the ON button for the cart, the electrical wall socket immediately began to malfunction, with sparks and flames emitting from the wall socket. Sgt Theo Jones observed the spreading flames and yelled "fire" to alert his fellow workers. Sgt Pate Jones, hearing the call and noticing the flames, raced to the nearest fire bottle over 20 feet away. Sgt Theo Jones charged the fire bottle as Sgt Pate Jones, assisted by Amn Berridge, pushed the cart toward the wall socket. Sgt Pates Jones then grabbed the extinguisher hose and began to fight the fire.
Sgt Jackson then moved into a position that would allow him to begin downjacking aircraft 814 if the fire could not be controlled. Sgt Walsh attempted to call the Mission Operational Control Center (MOCC) on the maintenance net (net 4); receiving no response, he called Recovery Base to inform them of the fire in building 877. Sgt Walsh and Sgt Jackson cleared a path in front of the aircraft in order to tow it out of the hangar.
Because of the quick actions of this team, the fire was out when the Fire Department arrived. Sgt Walsh directed them to where the fire had originated. Sgts Theo and Pate Jones explained the situation and suggested to the Fire Department that they shut down the circuit breakers since the wall might still be electrically charged. As the Fire Department shut down the breakers, Sgt Walsh called for a CE electrician to come and inspect the damage.
The alertness and quick actions of the individuals involved definitely prevented injury and/or loss of life to those working in and around building 877, the loss of four aircraft valued at over 250 million dollars, the loss of the entire phase dock containing numerous pallets of tools, and Radar Absorbent Material valued at well over 1.5 million dollars. "

TSgt Joel G. L. Patrick

In the Dec, 1998 issue of Flying Safety Magazine, TSgt Joel G. L. Patrick (Tower, Watch Supervisor) 49th Operations Support Squadron, Holloman AFB, New Mexico was featured for the 2nd quarter calendar 98:

"During a period of busy and complex air traffic at Holloman AFB, and F-117 reported his gear down to the local controller. While the local controller's attention was with traffic in the overhead pattern, TSgt. Patrick observed the F-117 without gear. He immediately instructed the local controller to advise the pilot that the aircraft's landing gear did not appear to be down. A "check wheels" call was made to the pilot, who then lowered his gear on short final and landed safely. TSgt. Patrick's situational awareness averted a potential hazardous situation."
[Damage on #790 from blown engine.(Flying Safety Magazine)]

F-117A #790

On May 19,1999, F-117A #790 belonging to the 9th FS sustained a fuselage fire on takeoff roll while being "borrowed" by the 7th FS for training purposes. The takeoff was succesfully aborted, however, it was still a Class A mishap causing damage well over 1 million dollars. The following account was written by the mishap pilot and published in the November 1999 issue of Flying Safety Magazine:

By Capt. Clint Hinote, 8th Fighter Squadron, Holloman AFB, N.M.

"My engines roared as I prepared to take off. "Ten seconds, tape on," called my flight examiner as he rolled his T-38 down off the perch of the chase pickup pattern. This was my initial qualification check ride in the F-117A Nighthawk, and so far it had gone pretty well. The briefing, step, preflight, start, and taxi had all gone smoothly, and now I was primed to become a qualified pilot in "The Black Jet." I counted ten seconds, released brakes, and began the takeoff roll.
[Closeup of damage.(Flying Safety Magazine)]I had only traveled a few hundred feet when, WHAM, I heard a huge bang. The jet lurched to the left, and I was pushed forward in the straps as the takeoff acceleration slowed. I immediatly brought the throttles to idle, got on the brakes, and stopped the jet. I was examining the cockpit instruments in an attempt to figure out what was wrong when I heard my flight examiner exclaim, "JUDGE 71, ABORT, ABORT! YOU'RE ON FIRE!" The tower controller then keyed me to "get out" because my aircraft was on fire.
At that point, the left engine fire switchlight illuminated. I accomplished the boldface checklist items, which included placing the throttles to off and pushing the fire switchlight. I made a quick radio call to tower, and then unstrapped myself from the jet. I opened the canopy, stood up in the seat, slid down the right side, landed on all fours, then dashed away at a 45 degree angle into the desert brush adjacent to the runway.
As I ran, two barrier maintenance airmen drove over to see if they could help. When I got to their truck, I looked back and stared at the spectacular fire coming out of the left hand side of the jet. The blaze was so intense that pieces of the F-117 melted and dropped onto the runway surface. As the fire department battled the flames, I was taken away and checked out by the responding flight surgeon. I was fine, but the jet sustained several million dollars worth of damage.

[#790 with large damaged piece hanging from engine access panel.(Flying Safety Magazine)]

This incident reinforced several basic truths I'd like to share so that we can be prepared the next time one of us faces such a time-critical emergency.

There's absolutely no substitute for rigorous emergency procedure study and practice
Even though this was only my sixth ride in the Stealth Fighter, I had recently accomplished several hours of academics on emergency procedures and endured over 20 "dial-a-death" hours in the simulator coping with all the emergencies my instructors could throw at me. One of my instructors was even fond of presenting and abort situation that was very similar to my actual incident. I had studied emergency procedures in the flight manual and passed my required testing and emergency procedure evaluation. I had completed egress training for the F-117, where I practiced the best way quickly to leave the jet. I was also required to discuss an emergency procedure before every flight briefing, and my instructors would usually add some of their experience and judgement as well. Though it was not always fun, I am convinced that this training was essential in preparing me to handle this particular situation.

Expect the unexpected on upgrade/evaluation flights
I'll leave it to the safety experts to explain why, but many of the in-flight incidnet I've heard about recently have occured on upgrade or evaluation flights. For example, in my prior F-16 squadron, one of my buddies suffered G-LOC (G-induced Loss Of Consciousness) and another an out-of-control incident on seperate upgrade rides. This was supposed to be my initial check ride in the F-117, but it also happened to be the check out for my flight examiner (his flight examiner was in the back of the T-38). You've got to be prepared on every flight for an emergency, but I'm going to anticipate that something abnormal may happen on the next upgrade or evaluation sortie i fly.

Clear and consice communication is not only essential for tactical success, but it can also save lives and airplanes.
My Cockpit/Crew Resource Management (CRM) Aircrew Guide says that effective communication requires us to "transfer mission essential information as the situation requires." To me, this simply means we should make the right call at the right time. Fortunately, both of the flight examiners and tower controller gave timely, critical pieces of information over the radio that helped me analyze the situation and take the proper action. Such effective communication is an invaluable skill, and one that we need to constantly practice and thoroughly debrief.

Memorize what you need to do to get out of your aircraft in an emergancy, and practice this procedure until it becomes automatic.
Emergancy ground egress is not a boldface procedure in the F-117, but it was in the F-16, and, since both aircraft have the smae ejection seat, the procedures are basically the same except for some "cleanup items." In the F-16, I developed the habit of practicing the emergency ground egress procedure on normal sorties. I had tried to do the same in the F-117, but I had not practiced enough to make the cleanup items automatic. When the pressure was on, I found that the steps I had practiced in both jets were so automatic that I did them before I could consciously think about them. On the other hand, I missed turning off the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), a step specific to the F-117. I remembered this step as I was running away and had to tell my operations group commander and squadron commander when they drove up a few minutes later. (Luckily, the APU cut off on its own.) I can tell you from experience that when your aircraft is on fire, you won't have time to look at your checklist. All of us should know how we are going to exit the aircraft and to practice this at every opportunity.
I realize that I've not said anything profound here, but sometimes recent events help to remind us of what we already know. That's what this accident did for me, and it's made me a better pilot. I hope you can learn from it as well.

Upon further investigation, it was determined that the Forward Cooling Plate (FCP) had suffered an uncontained failure. A redesigned FCP has already been ontroduced and is being installed on an attrition basis. Service life of the older FCP's has been shortened to reduce the risk of another failure."

#843 Fire

It is known that the final aircraft delivered, #843 caught fire on the ramp (But the date is not known). It reportedly took 15 minutes for the fire department to arrive. This could be the Night Vision Goggle Test incident mentioned above.

Accident Summary

Since the Safety Center has been keeping records (June 1992) for the F-117, there have been 16 FOD mishaps out of a total of 78 mishaps. Most of these mishaps occurred when the engine ingested a screw or bolt. From a historical perspective, there have been three Class A and three Class B mishaps in the F-117 world. This total includes only those mishaps since the aircraft officially came into the Air Force inventory. (This does not include the years 1982 to 1991) The Class A's include a bleed air leak which eventually caused the pilot to eject, an engine fire due to an engine manifold leak, and failure to recover from an unusual attitude (All mentioned above). The Class B's include a brake failure on landing roll which caused damage upon barrier engagement (see above), a lost canopy during flight, and the failed PTO shaft mentioned above. (Note: this information was published in Jan. 1997.)


F-117A Accidents (As of Nov. 16, 2002 from USAF Safety Center)



The above numbers only reflect statistics after the ACC was formed from the TAC and SAC in June 1992. Before that, the F-117A was assigned to TAC. The safety numbers from 1981 to June 1992 have not been published.

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