The Israel Air Force has grounded its fleet of F-15 fighter jets after an incident last week in which an F-15’s canopy, the transparent enclosure over the cockpit, dislodged while the aircraft was flying at 30,000 feet, requiring the crew to make a harrowing emergency landing.
The canopy was found on Tuesday near Hebron.
The Israel Defense Force Spokesperson’s Office said that at that altitude, with temperatures of minus 45 degrees Celsius (-49 degrees Fahrenheit) and strong wings, the crew was in danger. The commander of the air force, Amikam Norkin, has ordered a halt to all training flights with the aircraft pending an investigation.
The army released sound recordings of the incident in which shouting is heard followed by the pilot, who has been identified as Capt. Y, telling the ground: “Coming in for a landing at the nearest base without a canopy. Please confirm.” The plane's navigator, 1st Lt. R., then asked the pilot if he was all right. “Yes, everything is all right,” he replied. The navigator then confirmed that he too was all right. The pilot was asked to slow his speed and then said: “We have no problem getting to base.”
There were no prior signs of a problem before the canopy dislodged, nor did any warning lights go on. The pilot and his navigator “handled the event under complicated circumstances,” the Israel Defense Forces said. “In a joint decision, by the air crew, after they understood the significance of the incident and, assessing that they could steer the plane to a safe landing, reported the incident to [air traffic] control and headed for the closest base for a landing.”
The crew underwent a medical exam following the incident and were found to be in good condition.
The Israel Air Force has had a fleet of F-15s since the 1970s. Up to now, the plane has been considered its leading model. It has a longer range than the F-35, which is viewed as the Air Force's plane of the future and which can carry larger bombs.
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