A landing-gear malfunction caused a Blue Angels pilot to make a hard landing on a runway at the Naval Air Facility El Centro on Jan. 22 and while the pilot escaped injury his bright blue F/A18 Hornet jet was damaged, a military official reported.
“The pilot was not injured and we received no information this mechanical breakdown will impact the March 16 El Centro Air Show,” said Kris Haugh, NAFEC public affairs officer. Haugh added the base continues with air show planning and referred further inquiry to Lt. Michelle Tucker, Chief of Naval Air Training Public Affairs.
Tucker declined to release the pilot’s name in interest of protecting his privacy.
“But he did a wonderful job of landing the aircraft safely following standard operating procedure when aircraft malfunction,” she said.
The landing gear at the front of the jet were properly extended as well as the right rear landing gear but the left one was not extended, Tucker noted. Once the jet touched down on the runway the right rear landing gear collapsed.
“The pilot got instrument indications the landing gear was malfunctioning in flight,” said Tucker. “Yet he followed flight procedure on emergency landing.”
The Navy is unsure why the left rear landing gear failed and are conducting an investigation. The pilot did exactly what he was supposed to do land safely, she stressed.
“The airman is now medically cleared to fly and will continue to train,” she added. “The flight demonstration squadron already arrived with extra jets in order to allow for maintenance while the others are in training.”
She added it is uncertain if the aircraft is salvageable but if it is cost effective it will be restored. A complete investigation is likely to take some time and she does not anticipate further updates this week.
F/A 18 Hornets cost $29 million, according to the Navy website.
The Blue Angels conduct winter training at NAFEC through mid-March in preparation for the 2019 air show season. The squadron is scheduled to present 61 flight demonstrations at 32 locations across the U.S. to showcase the professionalism of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to the American public.