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F-106 Loss of Control at Night
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PapaJoe



Joined: 09 Nov 2020
Posts: 51
Location: Massachusetts USA

PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2021 3:38 am    Post subject: F-106 Loss of Control at Night Reply with quote

Losing control of a fighter in the daytime can be an eye-opening experience. But losing control at night . . . well, that's a whole different ballgame.

One night, I was flying intercepts over Northern Michigan just south of Lake Superior in an F-106 Delta Dart. The training mission included night in-flight refueling with a KC-135 tanker. Following the first round of engagements, I joined up with the tanker, hooked up to his refueling boom, and topped off with JP-4. Once fueled, I disconnected, backed away from the tanker, and cranked the jet into a 90 degree bank left turn to get clear of the KC-135. That's when things became interesting.

Without warning, my jet's nose pitched down pinning me up and away from the seat cushion due to negative G. Debris flew up from the floor and side panels filling the air with a dusty cloud. Then, in the next instant, the nose pitched up pressing me down into the seat cushion under high positive G. After that wild ride, things seemed to settle down.

Disoriented in the darkness, I took a moment to differentiate the stars from lights on the ground to determine which way was up. Next, I attempted to turn toward home, and the whole out-of-control sequence happened again. At that point, I figured the hydraulic system might be contaminated with air in the lines making the jet's flight control response unpredictable . . . not good. That meant go easy on the stick and rudder inputs and hope for the best.

With that in mind, I slowly pointed toward home and reduced engine RPM for a long, gentle descent. I radioed the Supervisor of Flying (SOF), filled him in, and declared an emergency. He responded that visibility at the base was decreasing due to snow showers blowing in off the lake and to plan accordingly.

My first approach did not go well. The airplane rocked back and forth uncontrollably all the way down final approach and I could not see the runway at minimum altitude because of heavy snow. So, I climbed back up for another attempt.

It was around 3:00 AM and I felt tired. There are times in life when we'd all like to shed our responsibility, let someone else do the job. But in single-seat fighters, there is no one else. So, you suck it up and fly. You do the job.

On the next approach, again the jet rocked back and forth and, for some reason, my instruments lights started flickering. But, at minimum altitude I saw the runway lights and set the jet down on the slippery runway. The SOF met me at the airplane to debrief the emergency. After that, I asked him if he needed me to fly again. "NO", he answered. "Go Home."
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peter scott



Joined: 18 Dec 2007
Posts: 6579
Location: Edinburgh

PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2021 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An horrific experience indeed!

Did you find out what had caused the hydraulics to fail?

Peter
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PapaJoe



Joined: 09 Nov 2020
Posts: 51
Location: Massachusetts USA

PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2021 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Peter,

Yes, I did. It was air in the hydraulic system. Prior to my flight, Maintenance had worked a previous flight control problem by hooking up the airplane to a "mule" which pressurizes the system on the ground without having to run the engine. This introduced the air into the lines which failed to bleed out completely. Interesting that the problem didn't manifest itself until an hour into my sortie.

Regards,
Joe
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