Watch: F-15 Eagle managed to land with one wing After mid-air collision and demonstrated that F-15 Eagle can survive serious damages.
On 1 May 1983 two Israeli Air Force aircraft, an F-15 Eagle and an A-4 Skyhawk, collided in mid-air during a training exercise over the Negev region, in Israel. Notably, the F-15 managed to land safely at a nearby airbase, despite having its right wing almost completely sheared off in the collision. The lifting body properties of the F-15, together with its overabundant engine thrust, allowed the pilot to achieve this unique feat.
Details of 1983 Negev mid-air collision
On 1 May 1983, during an Israeli Air Force dissimilar air combat training session over the Negev, an F-15D Eagle (or Baz) collided with an A-4 Skyhawk. The pilot of the Skyhawk ejected and his aircraft disintegrated. The right wing of the Eagle has sheared off roughly 2 ft (60 cm) from the root. The F-15 crew, pilot Ziv Nedivi, and navigator Yehoar Gal, did not initially realize the extent of the damage, as fuel leaking profusely and vaporizing at the wing attachment was obscuring their view of the area where the wing once was.
The F-15 started rolling uncontrollably after the collision. Nedivi attempted recovery by engaging the afterburner and eventually regained control of the aircraft. He was able to maintain control because of the lift generated by the large areas of the fuselage, stabilators, and remaining wing. Diverting to Ramon Airbase, the F-15 landed at twice the normal speed to maintain the necessary lift, and its tailhook was torn off completely during the landing. Nedivi managed to bring his F-15 to a complete stop approximately 20 ft (6 m) from the end of the runway. He was later quoted as saying “(I) probably would have ejected if I knew what had happened.” However, he also stated that above a certain speed, the F-15 acted “like a rocket” and did not need wings, effectively becoming something similar to a lifting body.
Incident Explained in NO WING F-15 written by John Easley
As explained in No Wing F-15, an interesting piece written by John Easley, Zivi didn’t immediately realize what had happened: he felt a big jolt and saw a huge fireball caused by the A-4 explosion, followed by radio communications according to those the Skyhawk pilot had successfully ejected.
He realized that the F-15 was badly damaged when the aircraft fell in a very tight spiral after a huge fuel leak from its right wing.
After regaining the control of the aircraft Nedivi was ordered to eject but decided not to bail out since he was confident he could land the plane at the nearest airfield, 10 miles away, even though the F-15 was flying on vapors: he began to reduce speed but the missing right wing (that the Israeli pilot was still unaware of) caused a new spin.
Then just before ejecting, Nedivi decided to light the afterburners, gaining speed and managing to somehow control the F-15 once again.
Once he reached the air base, he lowered the tail hook, touched down at about 260 knots, which was twice the speed recommended for a standard landing, and managed to stop the plane about 10 meters before it engaged the Safeland Airfield Arrester Barrier.
As told by Easley, it was only after he turned back to shake his instructor’s hand, that Zivi discovered that he had flown and landed without a wing!
After the mishap, McDonnell Douglas, inquired by the Israeli Air Force, affirmed that it was impossible for an F-15 to with one wing only, but once they received the photo of the Eagle flying without one wing, they said that pilot skills aside, damaged aircraft had been able to return to the base thanks to the lift generated by both its engine intakes and its fuselage.
Nevertheless proving once again its tremendous strength, after two months the Eagle received a new wing and returned to fly, as you can see in the picture below.