Terror at 30,000 Feet

The Fellowship  |  January 7, 2019

Two Israeli airmen narrowly avoided disaster when the top of their fighter jet came off at 30,000 feet. The Times of Israel’s Judah Ari Gross reports on the quick thinking and actions taken by an IAF aircrew in the face of an emergency at altitude:

Israel Defense Forces officials praised the pilot and navigator of the aircraft for displaying a “calm temperament” when the top of their plane flew off suddenly last Wednesday, exposing them to frigid air, vicious winds, and deafening noise.

After a brief moment of panic, the airmen radioed the nearest control tower, informed them of the situation and brought the fighter jet in for a landing. An edited recording of the Hebrew radio chatter was released by the military on Monday morning…

“This type of incident is very, very rare. The last time something like this happened, it was a Skyhawk jet in 2004. In that case, they needed to eject. This event ended very differently,” an army official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Israel’s F-15 fighter jets — known in Hebrew as the “Baz,” or “Falcon” — were first constructed and delivered in the 1970s, though they have been upgraded and refurbished in the interim decades…

The two airmen, a captain who was acting as pilot and a lieutenant serving as navigator, took off from the Tel Nof airbase near the central Israeli city of Rehovot, and began a routine training flight southwards.

When the canopy came detached, the officers could be heard screaming, before they eventually calmed down and started working to land the plane. The temperature outside was approximately 45 degrees Celsius below zero (-49 degrees Fahrenheit). At the height of 30,000 feet, the airmen only had enough oxygen to breathe because of their masks…

“I hear you, do you hear me?” Cpt. “Yod” asked Lt. “Resh.”

Before receiving a reply, Yod then begins speaking to the control tower of the nearby Nevatim airbase east of Beersheba.

“We’re landing without a canopy, do you copy?” he asks.

Turning back to his navigator, Yod asks, “Resh, do you hear me?”

Clearly shaken, Resh responds: “Are you okay?”

“Yes, everything’s okay,” Yod answers, in an apparent effort to reassure his navigator…