MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
An F/A-18D Hornet jet from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., had to make an emergency landing at the Expeditionary Airfield aboard the Combat Center Aug. 13.
Two F/A-18D’s from VMFA-225 were performing aerial-refueling and inert bombing missions in the area when one of the jet’s emergency Dual Bleed Air Nozzle emergency indicator-light turned on.
“Basically, that means that there is a possible fire somewhere in the aft section of the F-18,” said Sgt. Sean Redmond, the air traffic controller on duty during the emergency, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374. “That is a serious situation with not much time to react. Once that light is on, they have about 30 seconds to take action.”
The Dual Bleed Air Nozzle monitors the air temperature of auxiliary equipment, such as the jet’s oxygen. A seal had broken on the equipment causing the nozzle to detect hot air, which could mean a fire.
The aircraft were several miles from the airfield when the pilot received the emergency indicator and called in the situation at approximately 6 p.m. to arrange an emergency landing, said Sgt. Dolan Oneill, the airfield’s communications and operations chief with MWSS-374.
Because of the type of emergency on board, the aircraft had to make an arrested landing, which is when a line of emergency arresting gear lays on the runway to catch a hook on the jet's tail for a more abrupt stop.
“Because of the situation, you want to get the plane on the deck as fast as possible and an arrested landing is the way to do that,” said Oneill, a native of Folsom, Calif. “Without the arresting gear the aircraft could coast for up to five minutes, but with the arrested landing it’ll stop dead in five seconds.”
The airfield’s crew and fire, crash and rescue teams were ready and in place before the F/A-18D was in the control towers airspace because Redmond had been listening to the pilots’ radios from the control tower since their take off 20 minutes before.
“They originally were talking with the BEARMAT (Range Control) because they were out of our airspace, but I was listening to their frequency, so I knew what was going on, and I notified all of our emergency crew before the aircraft was even around,” said Redmond, a Denver native. “So we were prepared and ready.”
From the time the pilot called, it only took the airfield’s crew 17 minutes to prepare for the emergency, land the aircraft and end the emergency situation.
“The way everyone handled it was absolutely amazing,” Redmond said. “The whole thing went very smoothly. Everyone did their job and we were able to handle the situation very quickly and with no injuries.”
A recovery crew with VMFA-225 came from Miramar on Aug. 14 to move the jet off runway, repair any damages and find out what caused the incident.
“They did a great job also,” Oneill said. “They got here, replaced the seal, turned the jet on and it flew out of here that same night — emergency over.”