Israeli fighter jet loses canopy at 30,000 feet, pilots land safely

An incident in which an IAF F-15 lost its cockpit cover is described as a freak malfunction. The airmen have been praised for their professionalism.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

The IDF released details Monday of a severe malfunction that took place last week on an Israel Air Force F-15 fighter jet flying at 30,000 feet.

The canopy, which protects the cockpit, detached, exposing the pilot and navigator on a training exercise to a sudden loss of cabin pressure, biting cold and violent turbulence. The incident was first reported by the Yedioth Aharonoth daily.

The cause of the separation is not yet known. It is considered a freak and very rare malfunction. Following the incident, IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin ordered a stop to all training flights for the F-15 Falcon pending an investigation.

The two airmen have been praised for their professionalism. The jet had taken off from the Tel Nof airbase near the central Israeli city of Rehovot.

The IDF released a recording of the communication that transpired in the immediate aftermath between the pilot and navigator. With a tremendous amount of noise in the background, there is initially the sound of screaming, but the two then proceeded by ensuring that they could hear one another and that each was alright.

The noise caused the men to shout. Although clearly shocked, they successfully worked together to make the safe landing. They radioed the control tower at Nevatim airbase, located some 15 kilometers from where they were, near the city of Beersheva in the south.

The pilot stated calmly, “We have no canopy,” and requested to land. A state of alert was declared at the base to prepare for an emergency landing.  The airmen are said to have slowed down their flight as they began an orderly descent, despite the immense challenges.

“The pilot, Captain Y., and the navigator, Lieutenant R., conducted the event in complex conditions where there was a real risk to the plane and crew,” said the IDF in a statement. “The plane’s crew was in full control throughout the incident, acted with level-headedness, professionalism, and great skill in handling the rare malfunction, and landed the plane safely at the Nevatim Air Base.”

The IAF said it is in contact with Boeing and the U.S. Air Force as part of the investigation into whether the canopy detached due to a mechanical or technical fault.