‘WATCH YOUR DECK!’ The story behind last summer’s Tiger II crash

| September 22, 2018


A year ago, an F-5N Tiger II tactical fighter aircraft the US Navy purchased from the Swiss Air Force crashed into the Atlantic Ocean forcing the pilot to eject.

The event took place on 09 August, about 20 nautical miles southeast of Naval Air Station Key West.

The unnamed pilot, assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111, was quickly recovered by a Coast Guard helicopter at approximately 1:15 p.m.

He was reported to have no significant injuries.

The pilot — whose name is redacted in the report — was flying a standard training mission for the “Sun Downers” of Fighter Composite Squadron 111 that day, playing the role of an aerial adversary, according to the report.

This is the narrative from the mishap report.

The flight seemed routine until after he heard the call of “Fights On” and he “pulled the nose toward vertical … and noticed the nose tracking slow” at about the 70-degree mark, according to his official statement.

He tried to keep the nose from “getting parked close to vertical,” but the right rudder input seemed sluggish.

“I do not recall an altitude or airspeed as I was looking at my opponent at this time,” he said. “The aircraft departed controlled flight.”

That laconic statement belies the chaos that ensued over the coming seconds.

The jet inverted, slicing and rolling left before kicking into a fully inverted left spin, according to the report.

“Knock it off, Viper 2, watch the deck,” his colleague in the other jet warned.

But the jet continued to fall.

Upside down, the pilot recalled seeing “a number of items from the cockpit collect on the canopy above me.”

“I think the pens came out of my g-suit pocket.”

With the altimeter reading between 8,000 and 9,000 feet, he said that he tried to apply procedures to right the aircraft. He moved to roll the jet upright but failed, a sign he believed that the plane was gyrating after the stall.

“The situation was unbelievably disorienting as I was ‘hanging in the straps’ and waiting for control effectiveness to return,” the pilot said.

“Watch your altitude,” the other pilot warned again. “WATCH THE DECK!”

“I remember thinking I was rapidly losing the opportunity to eject as my altitude decreased,” the pilot said. “I grabbed the handles and commanded ejection.”

The next few seconds became a blur.

The “Knock it off” call is used whenever anyone involved in an evolution feels an unsafe condition exists, which clearly was the case here. To read the rest of the article, click Here.

Note: The article was too lengthy to post in its entirety. I highly recommend following the link for the remainder- it’s a real world water survival evolution, and should be required reading for all who fly in military aircraft.

Category: Training Incidents

Comments (11)

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  1. 26Limabeans says:

    He had over 1200 hrs in it so I guess he knew when to leave. Glad he’s ok.

  2. David says:

    Ah, the Iranian fighter…

    • UpNorth says:

      Yeah, invented by ayatollahs, and rolled out as their version of the fighter to sweep the skies of the imperialist running dogs. Ooops, my bad on the descriptors of the Great Satan.

  3. Mason says:

    “The aircraft departed controlled flight.”

    How poetic you flyboys talk.

    I do so much enjoy learning that “knock it off” is the code word for stop acting stupid. Reminds me of a undercover prostitution sting where our bust word was “dynamite”. As when the Sgt, about to get his knob waxed said “oh, that’s dynamite.”

    • UpNorth says:

      We had a guy go into a “massage parlor”, but he forgot the bust word. Suffice it to say, that particular parlor didn’t get busted that day. And Quick Draw didn’t live it down.

  4. Well, it looks there are no holes in his story like a Swiss Cheese

  5. Ex-PH2 says:

    He is very lucky to be a live at all.

  6. 5th/77thFA says:

    Well damn, couldn’t open linky thingy, the foo gas and claymores on my rat trap and the byte defender kicked in to protect the perimeter. It bees that way on occasion. Price I pay to keep the gooks and rag heads out of my wire. Was able to Google Fu and check out the aircraft and a report from last year on the crash. Dealing with a 50 + year design and a what 30 + year air frame? ‘Pears like the pilot’s SA and training, got him to the point where the chopper crews could save his happy ass. One thing we all know, is that training can be as dangerous as the real thing. One of the other sites I perused while researching this episode pointed out that we lost more air craft and crews to accidents & such during WWII than we lost in combat. Had not thought about or known that aspect. Would make sense, though, when we look at the sheer numbers of air craft that was put into service then. We all wrote and signed the check; every now and again, the check gets cashed. FWIW I’m watching at, on “free” broadcast TV A Bridge Too Far. Seem like I remember Jonn had posted once upon a time, that was one of his all time favorites on WWII.

  7. OAE CPO USN Ret says:

    “I highly recommend following the link for the remainder- it’s a real world water survival evolution, and should be required reading for all who fly in military aircraft.

    Not counting MAC flights in the military aircraft category, I’ve probably had the opportunity to fly on about 18-20 helo flights and 6 or 7 COD’s (one arrested landing, the rest were cat shots). It seemed like everyone else was just enjoying the scenery while I was continually thinking “If things go South, how am I getting out of this contraption.”

    Chalk it up to being stationed at 2 NAS’s, plus the airfields on Deep Freeze to give me a healthy appreciation for how military aircraft will try to kill you if you don’t respect them, and sometimes even if you do respect them.

    • Bill M says:

      To this day, I always check the exits, no matter where I go. On a commercial flight, I check the exits on the way in, decide which is closest, which I’d use if closest isn’t available and which one would be next. Same in buildings. I don’t really even think about it, just do it automatically. Maybe I’m paranoid, or maybe the training was really deeply embedded.

    • 26Limabeans says:

      “military aircraft will try to kill you if you don’t respect them, and sometimes even if you do respect them”

      I wanted to catch the B-17 “nine-o-nine” at Laconia last week but she had maintenance problems in Portland and was a no show.
      Have flown on her a few times and was looking to hitch another ride as a named donor. Broke a tail wheel shear pin once while landing and it was a goddamn thrill.
      I once grabbed the overhead rudder cables while sticking my melon outside the radio operators nacelle to get a photo.
      My dad hanging on to my belt. I felt them move in my hand.