Navy Hornet Crash: What the Witness Reports May Mean
The reported shower of fuel is an indication of a fuel dumping maneuver initiated by the pilots to lessen the damage to residential areas on impact. Alternatively, it could have been a mechanical failure – if so, the cause of which would be under investigation.
The FA-18 was in a nose-up pitch attitude as it “fell from the sky” in the words of another witness account. A raised nose, paired with a possible loss of power from the engines would lead to an unavoidable stall, a condition where the lifting capability of the airplane wing is drastically decreased and the plane starts falling from the sky.
Witnesses also report engine sounds that may indicate an engine failure or a malfunction related to the engine. Moreover, a tilt to the right could indicate autorotation (when the aircraft starts rotating about its normal axis).
Autorotation leads to a spin. It is characterised by a raised wing, which produces more lift with the lower wing stalled. If no rudder is used while this happens, the aircraft’s nose yaws due to the excessive drag produced by the lowered wing and the aircraft enters autorotation.
At this point, no formal reports of the Navy jet going into an autorotation have been received, only a witness account indicating that the plane was tilted towards its right.
Cause of the accident is under investigation by concerned officials.
Fox News. Pilots eject as Navy jet crashes in Virginia Beach, wiping out part of apartment complex. Accessed April 7, 2012.
CNN. Navy jet has ‘catastrophic mechanical malfunction,’ hits apartments in Virginia. Accessed April 7, 2012.
BBC. US Navy F-18 crashes in residential Virginia. Accessed April 7, 2012.
Boeing. F/A-18 Super Hornet. Accessed April 7, 2012.
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