The new year isn’t even a week old, but two Israeli airmen may have already pulled off the aviation feat of 2019.
Haaretz reported Monday that the pair of aviators from Israel’s air force got a rude surprise on Jan. 2, when without warning, the canopy flew off their F-15. They were at 30,000 feet on a routine training mission, and had just taken off from the Tel Nof air base in central Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The pilot and navigator were suddenly plunged into whipping winds, deafening noise and well-below freezing temperatures of minus 45 degrees Celsius, or minus 49 degrees Fahrenheit. Audio released by the Israel Defense Force, and posted by Haaretz, captures the sound of the canopy breaking off and the airmen’s shouts before they quickly check on one another.
Yelling over the roar of the wind, the pilot, identified as Capt. Y, decided to try for an emergency landing at the nearest military airfield, Nevatim air base, instead of bailing out of the damaged fighter. The navigator, 1st Lt. R., is heard suggesting the pilot bring the speed down by 200 knots.
Throughout the emergency, the pilot remains unflappable, checking in on his navigator and asking “Are you with me, brother?”
Haaretz reported that a medical exam showed the two were in good condition afterward. But Amikam Norkin, the commander of Israel’s air force, has halted all F-15 training flights until an investigation is completed.
The Jerusalem Post said it was the third incident where an F-15′s canopy detached in the middle of a flight. The first, in 2004, happened to another Israeli F-15. And the second, in 2014, happened to a U.S. Air Force F-15 on a training exercise near Okinawa, Japan. That fighter safely landed at Kadena Air Base.
An A-10 pilot also landed his Warthog safely after his canopy blew off during a training mission in July 2017.