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T-38 Talon crash during formation landing

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T-38 Talon crash during formation landing

Old 6th May 2020, 13:38
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T-38 Talon crash during formation landing

Pilot Error, Instructor Delay Caused Deadly T-38 Crash at Vance, Report Finds

A T-38 Talon instructor pilot failed to take control of the aircraft when his student prematurely used a braking maneuver after touching down, causing the jet to collide with another aircraft, roll over and skid to a halt, killing both pilots, according to an Accident Investigation Board report.

The crash, which occurred during a routine training flight Nov. 21, 2019, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, killed Lt. Col. John "Matt" Kincade, 47, an instructor pilot assigned to the 5th Flying Training Squadron, and 2nd Lt. Travis B. Wilkie, 23, a student pilot assigned to the 71st Student Squadron.

The two men had just completed a training flight with another T-38 Talon instructor-student pilot team; then, both aircraft headed back to base for a formation landing. Kincade and Wilkie flew the left wing position, while the second T-38 flew on the right.

Officials noted that the early morning low cloud cover steadily lifted, and the operation's supervisor allowed the T-38s to alter their flight status "from instrument recoveries-only to a visual recovery-permissible status of 'Restricted Pattern -- Straight-In Only'" when coming in for the landing, according to the report.

Shortly after 9 a.m. local time, Kincade and Wilkie, flying tail number 65-0395, briefly became airborne again after the initial touchdown. In the front seat, Wilkie "prematurely initiated an aerobrake, causing [mishap aircraft 1] to lift back into the air after landing," the report states.

Once an aircraft slows below flying airspeed after touching down, the pilot "will raise the nose to enter an aerodynamic braking maneuver" to block airflow and create drag, which slows the plane "to a speed at which the pilot can safely employ mechanical brakes," the Air Force said. In this case, Wilkie's early use of the aerobraking maneuver caused the T-38 to bounce back up and lose contact with the runway surface, officials said. It was Wilkie's 56th training sortie.

"At the same time, [Wilkie] applied the right rudder to steer the aircraft away from the left edge of the runway," the report states. "The student's use of the rudder under these conditions -- airborne, configured for landing and at an increased angle of attack -- caused the aircraft to roll and yaw to the right and placed it on a collision course with the second T-38."

Because of the delay between rudder application and noticeable aircraft response to the maneuver, the board report, headed by Brig. Gen. Evan Pettus, found that "[Kincade] was unaware of [Wilkie's] rudder input until after the onset of the rapid right roll."

As the T-38 lifted off the runway and crossed into the other T-38's path, it struck the second jet with its right main landing gear, followed by its right wing. The pilots in the second aircraft were not injured in the accident. "After their aircraft collided with [mishap aircraft 2], [mishap aircraft 1] rolled right over the top of [aircraft 2] then impacted the ground upside down with engines in full military power," the report states.

However, Pettus found that a collision with the second T-38 "was inevitable." "By a preponderance of the evidence, the causes of the mishap were [Kincade] failing to take control of [the aircraft] as a precarious situation developed and [Wilkie] subsequently making an inappropriate flight control input," he said.

Pettus added that Wilkie "lacked an effective visual scan during the formation approach," substantially contributing to the accident.

"Due to his focus on [mishap aircraft 2], [Wilkie] did not adequately cross-check his runway alignment prior to touchdown. Instead, he used rudder in an attempt to steer [his aircraft] as his premature aerobrake lifted the weight from [mishap aircraft 1's] wheels after [it] initially touched down," Pettus said.

In a statement to Air Force Magazine, Wilkie's family said more research into the accident should have been conducted, finding the report "grossly and unjustly incomplete." The family added that tandem landings in a 1960s-era trainer are unnecessary and dangerous. The formation landing has "no continuing practical benefit to combat pilot proficiency or survivability," they said, according to the magazine.

"Although it is the instructor's mandate to keep a student pilot safe, it should not be his or her job to ensure preservation of life during an exceedingly unsafe maneuver in an exceedingly tired old plane in which minor student errors occurring in hundredths of a second cannot be corrected quickly enough by the instructor," they said. "We don't think the Air Force is doing right by our Airmen and Airwomen by mandating student pilots land in formation in a plane so old that it doesn't perform as responsively as needed to prevent loss of life."

https://www.military.com/daily-news/...ort-finds.html
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Old 6th May 2020, 13:55
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From the last 2 paragraphs sounds like a lawyer has been advising the family....lawsuit pending I'm sure.....
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Old 6th May 2020, 16:07
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Simple question. Why are formation landings required. Is there an operational need that overtakes individual landings?
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Old 6th May 2020, 16:16
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Here's an earlier thread on the mishap:

T-38 Fatal Mishap Vance AFB Oklahoma
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Old 6th May 2020, 16:18
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Formation landings are needed if an an aircraft loses its ASI and a shepherd aircraft leads it to a landing.

ACW
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Old 6th May 2020, 16:42
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Loss of an ASI is a reason for a formation approach and not necessarily a formation landing.
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Old 6th May 2020, 16:58
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Originally Posted by Saintsman View Post
Simple question. Why are formation landings required. Is there an operational need that overtakes individual landings?
They can also be useful for high sortie operations, especially combat operations when recovering multiple aircraft on a single runway.
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Old 6th May 2020, 17:16
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Originally Posted by sandiego89 View Post
They can also be useful for high sortie operations, especially combat operations when recovering multiple aircraft on a single runway.
Id love to see the numbers on this vs a run in and break.
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Old 6th May 2020, 17:42
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Id love to see the numbers on this vs a run in and break.
RIAB will get more aircraft into the pattern - formation landings will obviously increase runway usage but it would depend on trail distance as to which method would recover “two pair” quicker. But you all knew that....
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Old 6th May 2020, 17:59
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If visability is poor or cloudbase is low then a pairs GCA or ILS can get formations on the ground quickly. Generally speaking VFR conditions are required for a RIAB.
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Old 6th May 2020, 18:07
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Originally Posted by Saintsman View Post
Simple question. Why are formation landings required. Is there an operational need that overtakes individual landings?
Well "back in the day" we used to do them:

1. Because of the aforementioned ASI failure case...( FWIW we lost an F-4, albeit at night, fortunately non-fatal, off a pairs approach with one going around at low level, so that isn't always the safe option)

https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/82599

2. If the weather was bad and GCAs ("talk downs") were needed pairs approaches meant ATC could get more aircraft back on the ground quicker vs. everybody doing singleton GCAs..

3. And shock horror, and I know it sounds somewhat old fashioned in the days of safety cases, they were regarded as worth doing because they were a bit of a challenge, but no more inherently dangerous than lots of other aspects of aviating.



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Old 6th May 2020, 18:56
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Tough break for all parties involved, my heart is with both families, but: formation takeoffs, approaches and landings have been a worldwide routine practice, in all services, for over 90 years.
Also, you all know the reason why the services started to opt for the faster “run-in and break” procedure. Different times and environments call for different measures.
We’ve done it a myriad of times, not without risk: at times it saved our hides.

How about all the “riskier” ops besides this ROUTINE practice? Abolish military aerial operations altogether?


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Old 6th May 2020, 19:02
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Originally Posted by WIDN62 View Post
Loss of an ASI is a reason for a formation approach and not necessarily a formation landing.
Wrong. I had to do this 2 months ago. A formation landing is a key military pilot skill and needs to be practiced.
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Old 6th May 2020, 19:40
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Formation landing

The truth is that you may only need to do a formation landing in anger a few times in a twenty year career.

The problem with that is it is a difficult skill. The time to find out just how difficult is not when you need it in anger. That would be dangerous.

This may of course be similar to the PFL issue. How many aircraft have been lost practicing formation take offs and landings versus how many would have been lost if it were not a capability?

My take on it is that it appears to be an issue of instructor skill. The USAF typically trains IPs rather than QFIs and the T-38 has awful rear seat visibility.

These two things combined mean that even a pilot with many hours may not have actually had a very lengthy instructor work up and in a seat with poor visibility may not have been aware of the impending danger.

Knowing when to take control is a key tenet of instruction. In fact very recently I had to take control from a senior officer on landing. It can happen any time with anyone.

For the record, I agree with teaching formation take offs and landings to students.

I don’t mean this to be controversial just saying it as I see it.

BV
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Old 6th May 2020, 20:23
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When we did these, at the point of the flare and before the power reduction, the No.2 would reduce power first and touch down, and thus produce some longitudinal separation. The leader would touch down a bit further down the runway. He didn't stand on the brakes until he hear 2 say "clear" - not clear of the runway, obviously, but under control on his side of the runway.
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Old 6th May 2020, 21:37
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Pettus added that Wilkie "lacked an effective visual scan during the formation approach," substantially contributing to the accident.
I would be very interested to know how the inquiry team were able to deduce that particular "fact" from the available evidence, short of a pre-mortem Vulcan mind-meld.
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Old 6th May 2020, 22:11
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Originally Posted by Two's in View Post
I would be very interested to know how the inquiry team were able to deduce that particular "fact" from the available evidence, short of a pre-mortem Vulcan mind-meld.
Not familiar with the type, CVR and/or cockpit camera perhaps?
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Old 6th May 2020, 22:46
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Salute!

Great point/technique Ascend

This one sounds like the wingie landed a bit hot and was in a hurry to aero brake to get behind lead. And as we know, low aspect ratio wing at high AoA means roll due to yaw. Maybe both in the 38 with flaps down. Need a 38 IP here to comment from actual experience in these matters. The student pilot had many flights and would not have been in the T-38 if he had been tracked to fly buffs or cargo types.

I briefed and executed what Ascend described, but I could normally see if #2 was under control behind me and start slowing down before he called "clear".

Let the nannies whine and carp, but there are operational and emergency requirements to land two by two.

Gums sends...
P.S. Anyone else pick up on the engines being at full mil power? Think maybe the IP tried a go-around once the yaw and roll got scary?

Last edited by gums; 6th May 2020 at 22:52. Reason: clarify opinion
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Old 6th May 2020, 22:50
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Military flying is different from civil commercial flying. Military aviators are trained, whether transport or fighter, to routinely get the maximum performance from their aircraft, sometimes to the detriment of safety. Commercial aviators are trained to operate with a maximum of safety, rarely pushing the limits of their aircraft. I know that is a rather simplistic explanation of the difference in philosophies between military and civil aviation, and that there are exceptions to every rule; however, military aviators are trained to operate "on the edge" and sometimes a bit beyond. Military flight training reflects this philosophy. I haven't seen the statistics lately, but as I recall, the accident rate for military aviation far exceeds that of commercial civil aviation by several orders of magnitude. General Aviation is another matter.

Cheers,
Grog
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Old 6th May 2020, 23:56
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With you on this, Ascend Charlie and gums!

I once had unreliable airspeed in an F-4, called knock it off and requested RTB on the wing. My alleged leader took us down, levelled off in cloud even though we could see gaps beneath us, then flew the approach but decided to fly a go-around and a pairs visual circuit as it would be 'good training'...ar$e! My nav lost his cool and reminded the idiot that we had a REAL failure and that this practice bleeding wasn't a good idea! Cause of the failure was the static connection on my nav's ASI coming adrift, admitting cabin pressure into the static system.

Got my own back a little later though - this time the same person lost HIS instruments and I led him down for a night pairs approach. This time landing off the first approach!
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