CF188747 Hornet - Epilogue

Report / November 28, 2016 / Project number: CF188747 - A Category

Location: Cold Lake Air Weapons, Alberta
Date: 2016-11-28
Status: Investigation Complete


The pilot of aircraft CF188747, using the call sign “Swift 32”, was part of a two-ship formation led by “Swift 31” for an air-to-ground training mission. The mission objective was to practice level deliveries of two Mark 83 inert bombs followed by two laser guided training rounds, simulating laser guided bombs, in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. The plan was to ingress to the target and drop weapons from 600 feet above ground level. To avoid simulated bomb fragmentation after dropping their bombs each pilot would fly a “breakaway manoeuver” comprising a steep turn through 90 degrees of heading change.

Following his Mark 83 drop, Swift 32 manoeuvred his aircraft in a manner that was suggestive of a pilot attempting to visually spot his weapon impact, losing over 200 ft of altitude in the process. Swift 32 then assumed tactical lead, with Swift 31 flying about 2 miles in trail of Swift 32 and lasing the target for Swift 32, who then dropped his laser guided training round. The ingress to the target was flown at approximately 500 feet above ground level.

Immediately after dropping his laser guided training round Swift 32 initiated a steep left turn, reaching a maximum left bank angle of 118 degrees while pulling approximately 5g. The aircraft nose began to pitch towards and then below the horizon, eventually reaching a nose-down pitch angle of minus 17 degrees and concurrently generating a large descent rate.

About 1.5 seconds before impact the aircraft began rolling right. The bank angle had reduced to approximately 30 degrees left and the pitch angle increased to approximately minus 10 degrees when ground impact occurred. Swift 32 made no radio calls during the turn, did not eject and was fatally injured when the aircraft struck the ground in a descending left turn.

The available evidence did not support a mechanical failure, bird strike or pilot incapacitation scenario. Therefore, it appears that the pilot was capable of controlling the aircraft but did not adequately monitor the aircraft’s flight path while manoeuvring in the low level environment, and allowed the aircraft to enter an overbank situation and the nose to drop well below the horizon. A recovery may have been attempted at the last second but there was not enough altitude available to safely recover the aircraft. While the reason for this lack of flight path monitoring is not knowable with any certainty, circumstantial evidence suggests that the pilot may have been distracted from the critical task of terrain clearance while attempting to spot his weapon impact.

Safety recommendations include the re-enforcement of low level awareness training principles and improved training on Terrain Awareness Warning System reactions.

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