Saturday marks the seventh year anniversary of the US Navy F/A 18D Fighter jet crash that became known as the ‘Good Friday Miracle’ because no one was killed or seriously injured.
On Good Friday in 2012, an F/A 18D Navy jet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana crashed into the Mayfair Mews Apartments on Birdneck Road. Remarkably, the pilots of the 40,000-pound jet and the people on the ground were all able to escape without any serious injuries.
At 12:05 p.m. the twin-engined Hornet launched from runway 05R at Naval Air Station Oceana on a heading of 053 degrees, conducting a scheduled training exercise.
In the first five seconds of flight, the jet’s right engine stalled from a fuel leak, the investigators said. The pilot tried to compensate with extra thrust from the left engine but it also failed due to an unrelated problem with the afterburner.
With a failed right engine and a malfunctioning left engine that was not generating sufficient thrust, the aircraft quickly lost altitude. When the F-18 dropped to 50 feet the crew ejected.
One second later the jet crashed into an apartment complex, but no one was killed. The whole ordeal, from takeoff to crash, lasted only 70 seconds.
The F/A-18 was completely destroyed, the largest section remaining being the empennage including the two engines. The starboard engine Variable Exhaust Nozzle was fully open, while the port engine’s nozzle was closed.
The apartment complex suffered heavy damage. Three buildings were destroyed and two were damaged, with least forty apartments left uninhabitable.
By mid-afternoon, the fire had been put out and seven people were sent to a hospital, including the two pilots.
Later that evening six of the injured were released from the hospital; one pilot remained, listed as being in fair condition.
According to Navy investigators, the cause of the incident was the failure of both F404-GE-402 engines. A leak caused fuel to enter the right engine’s intake, starting a fire. The crew shut down that engine according to proper procedure. As the Pilot in command increased thrust on the left engine it too failed due to an unrelated concern, when its afterburner didn’t light.
According to Rear Adm. Ted Branch
“We have never had this kind of unrelated dual engine mishap in the F-18, it’s the first time it’s ever happened with this aircraft.