Mar. 24--An Air Force Accident Investigation Board report found a bird strike and ensuing engine fire to be the cause of a Vance Air Force Base T-38 crash last August.
The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report, released March 20, was ordered after a T-38C crashed Friday Aug. 17, 2018, near the town of Mutual in southern Woodward County.
The pilot, identified by Vance public affairs as Maj. D. J. Vollmer, was the only person on board and was performing a training mission before ejecting, according to a Vance press release.
Vance public affairs also identified Vollmer's wingman that day as Lt. Col. Ed Long.
According to the AIB report the pair were on a two-ship cross-country flight, which was meant to be the first of four planned flights on a three-day cross-country training mission.
The aircraft took off from Vance at 1:05 p.m. that day, and proceeded to a low-level training route west of Vance. While on the sixth segment of the low-level route, Vollmer's T-38 ingested a Swainson's hawk into the right engine intake, according to the AIB report.
A Swainson's hawk has an average weight of approximately 32 ounces, according to the report.
According to the report, at 1:38 p.m., while Vollmer was looking over his left wing at Long's T-38 he "felt a thump on the right side of the aircraft accompanied by a fire warning light, associated audible 'Engine Fire' warning," several caution lights and a spike in the right engine exhaust gas temperature, according to the report.
Vollmer was approximately 1,000 feet above ground level at the time of the bird strike, and attempted to gain altitude as he performed prescribed checklists for the emergency, according to the report.
Less than a minute after the bird strike Vollmer radioed to Long "This is going to be bad ... request chase." While maneuvering into a chase position, Long "observed yellow to orange flames coming out of the back of" Vollmer's T-38.
Vollmer gained altitude to approximately 3,000 feet above ground level, but "continued to experience degradation of flight controls, stating full deflection of the flight controls was providing no response from the aircraft," the report stated.
Less than 90 seconds after the bird strike, Vollmer radioed Long, "One's punching out." He ejected at approximately 3,000 feet of altitude, at a speed of 195 knots, with a descent rate of 3,500 feet per minute.
Vollmer's T-38 created an impact crater approximately 20 by 25 feet and 3 to 4 feet deep, and the overall debris field covered an area 150 yards long and 75 yards wide, according to the report. The estimated loss of the aircraft was listed at more than $11 million in the report.
Long and a second T-38 from Sheppard Air Force Base provided search and rescue coverage after Vollmer ejected. At 2:13 p.m., about 34 minutes after the ejection, Vollmer was picked up by a local farmer and later met up with Oklahoma Highway Patrol and a local emergency medical team.
Vollmer suffered minor injuries during the ejection and did not require medical transport.
The AIB found no maintenance or medical issues to be associated with the crash.
The crash was the first Class A mishap from Vance since Sept. 8, 2000, then an Air Education and Training Command record. A Class A mishap involves loss of life or loss of an aircraft.
The T-38 Talon is a "twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record," according to an Air Force fact sheet.
The Talon is used by Air Education and Training Command for specialized undergraduate pilot and pilot instructor training, according to the Air Force. Student pilots at Vance have flown T-38s since December 1963. Students in the fighter/bomber track fly the Talon.
The Air Force awarded The Boeing Co. a contract last September worth up to $9.2 billion for the T-X, the Air Force's new training aircraft, which will replace the venerable T-38. Delivery of that aircraft is not yet scheduled. ___
This article is written by James Neal from Enid News & Eagle, Okla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.