The investigation into the F-22A mishap at NAS Fallon in April this year has found that the pilots are taking off using an incorrect technique.
On April 13, an F-22 pilot from the 90th Fighter Squadron at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, took off from Fallon for a TOPGUN graduation exercise. The pilot rotated the aircraft — bringing the nose up — at 120 knots and as the aircraft indicated its wheels were leaving the ground, the pilot retracted the landing gear. Immediately after landing gear retracted, the aircraft “settled” back on the runway with the doors fully closed.
The F-22 slid about 6,514 feet until coming to a rest, with its tailhook bouncing off the ground. Once the F-22 came to a stop, the pilot egressed the cockpit and there was no damage to other property. The Air Force did not disclose a cost estimate to the damage.
Investigators determined that the pilot had incorrect Takeoff and Landing Data (TOLD) for the takeoff and he failed to apply any corrections to the incorrect TOLD. He had prematurely retracted the landing gear while the jet had the insufficient speed to maintain level flight.
The board also found that other F-22 pilots are rotating their aircraft during take off at a lower speed than that calculated by the TOLD. And there is an organizational acceptance of this incorrect technique.
Investigators also found that the F-22 community is overconfident in the aircraft’s ability to take off due to the high thrust generated by the engines. This lead to a decreased emphasis on the takeoff data.
Additionally, the F-22 community has “organizational overconfidence” in the equipment, formal training is not adequate, and there is an organizational acceptance of an incorrect technique of taking off in the F-22, the board found.
Following this incident, 3rd Wing leadership directed a comprehensive review of Takeoff and Landing Data (TOLD) and TOLD special interest items briefed on every flight. Furthermore, a review and debrief of takeoffs and landings were completed for all pilots to identify and eliminate any lingering improper techniques with regards to takeoff and landing.
In accordance with AFI 51-503, Aerospace and Ground Accident Investigations, the accident investigation board conducted a legal investigation to inquire into all the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, prepared a publicly-releasable report, and obtained and preserved all available evidence for use in litigation, claims, disciplinary action, and adverse administrative action.