PORTLAND – Last month – on February 20, 2019 – a F-15C from the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Fighter Wing had to make an emergency landing, due to issues with its landing gear. After firing all its missiles into the Pacific Ocean, the F-15 landed safely on runway 28L at its home base, Portland International Airport (PDX).
The 41-year-old jet (registration 78-0473) had a problem with its landing gear after take off. When one of the main wheels could not be retracted, the pilot decided to make an emergency landing. After the wingman flew alongside the stricken jet on final approach, he accelerated off just before touchdown. The F-15 made a smooth and succesful arrested landing with its tailhook, using the arresting gear at the beginning of the runway. Thankfully the plane’s landing gear didn’t fail and the F-15 came to a stop in just 10 seconds, when the tailhook engaged with the steel wire succesfully as you can see in the next video.
Video of the emergency landing at Portland Airport, Oregon. Skip to 23:25 for the landing. Video: KOIN 6 on Facebook
The F-15 was on a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) training mission when the emergency situation occured. The fighter jet was fully armed with live air-to-air missiles when it took off. During the emergency, the decision was made to fire off all of its armament into the Pacific Ocean before returning to base, an operation that is apparently quite rare.
Usually, alert F-15s will scramble with 6 or 8 missiles. Traditionally, such a configuration will include 4 AIM-120C AMRAAMs and a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders. Alternatively, they will fly with a full loadout of 6 AIM-120 AMRAAMs and 2 AIM-9X Sidewinders. These ‘live’ missiles are equipped with explosives, which could be dangerous during the emergency landing. According to The Drive, firing these missiles took at least 4.5 million US dollars.
The 142nd Fighter Wing is one of 14 alert sites positioned around the United States that conducts the aerospace control alert mission, part of the North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Arrested landings aren’t always that smooth
This emergency landing in combination with the arresting gear at PDX was a beautiful smooth one, but that’s not always the case, as the next video shows a very rough and bumpy landing of an USAF F-15 from Lakenheath AB in England on October 28 last year.
An arresting gear or arrestor gear, is a mechanical system used to rapidly decelerate an aircraft as it lands. Arresting gear on aircraft carriers is an essential component of naval aviation, and it is most commonly used on CATOBAR and STOBAR aircraft carriers. Similar systems are also found at land-based airfields for expeditionary or emergency use. Typical systems consist of several steel wire ropes laid across the aircraft landing area, designed to be caught by an aircraft’s tailhook. During a normal arrestment, the tailhook engages the wire and the aircraft’s kinetic energy is transferred to hydraulic damping systems attached below the carrier deck. There are other related systems which use nets to catch aircraft wings or landing gear. These barricade and barrier systems are only used for emergency arrestments for aircraft without operable tailhooks.
An expensive lesson
In the end, what matters most is that the pilot walked away safely from the emergency landing. Nevertheless, this incident is also a very expensive lesson to be learned, because of the amount of advanced air-to-air weaponry that was blasted into the waters off Oregon.
(Top photo: Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing, U.S. Air National Guard)