M I S S I O N I M P O S S I B L E
"Eagle driver lands plane with one wing"
Written by : Tsahi Ben Ami
On may 1st. 1983, a simulated dogfight training took place between
two F-15D's and four A-4N Skyhawks over the skies of the Negev.
The F-15D (# 957, nicknamed 'Markia Shchakim', 5 kill marks) was used
for the conversion of a new pilot in the squadron. Here is the
description of the event as described in "Pressure suit":
At some point I collided with one of the Skyhawks, at first I didn't
realise it. I felt a big strike, and I thought we passed through the jet
stream of one of the other aircraft. Before I could react, I saw the big
fire ball created by the explosion of the Skyhawk. The radio
started to deliver calls saying that the Skyhawk pilot has ejected, and
I understood that the fire ball was the Skyhawk, that exploded, and the
pilot was ejected automatically.
was a tremendous fuel stream going out of the wing, and I understood it
was badly damaged. The aircraft flew without control in a strange
spiral. I re-connected the electric control to the control surfaces, and
slowly gained control on the aircraft until I was straight and level
again. It was clear to me that I had to eject. When I gained control I
said : "Hey, wait, don't eject yet!". No warning light was on
and the navigation computer worked as usual; I just needed a warning
light in my panel to indicate that I missed a wing..." The
instructor ordered me to eject. The wing is a fuel tank, and the
fuel indicator showed 0.000 so I assumed that the jet stream
sucked all the fuel out of the other tanks. However, I remembered that
the valves operate only in one direction, so that I might have enough
fuel to get to the nearest airfield and land.
I worked like a machine, wasn't scared and didn't worry. All I knew
was : as long as the sucker flies, I'm going to stay inside.
I started to decrease the airspeed, but at that point one wing was not
enough. So I went into a spin down and to the right. A second before I
decided to eject, I pushed the throttle and lit the afterburner. I
gained speed and thus got control of the aircraft again. Next thing I
did was lowering the arresting hook. A few seconds later I touched the
runway at 260 knots, about twice the recommended speed, and called the
tower to erect the emergency recovery net. The hook was torn away from
the fuselage because of the high speed, but I managed to stop 10 meters
before the net.
I turned back to shake the hand of my instructor, who urged me to
eject, and then I saw it for the first time - no wing !!!
The IAF contacted McDonnell Douglas and asked for information about
possibility to land an F-15 with one wing . MD replied that this is
aerodynamically impossible, as confirmed by computer simulations... Then
they received the photo....
After two months the same F-15 got a new wing and returned to action.
Special thanks to Tsahi Ben Ami
This is what "Flight international, 8 June 1985"
wrote about the incident :
"The most outstanding Eagle save was by a pilot from a foreign
air force. During air combat training his two seater F-15 was involved
in a mid air collision with an A-4 Skyhawk. The A-4 crashed, and the
Eagle lost it's right wing from about 2ft. outboard. After some
confusion between the instructor who said eject, and the student who
outranked his instructor and said no, the F-15 was landed at it's desert
base. Touching down at 290 Kts., the hook was dropped for an approach
and engagement. This slowed the F-15 to 100 Kts, when the hook weak link
sheared, and the aircraft was then braked conventionally. It is said
that the student was later demoted for disobeying his instructor, then
promoted for saving the aircraft.
McDonnell Douglas attributes the saving of this aircraft to the
amount of lift generated by the engine intake/body and "a hell of a