The Israeli Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of F-15s after a freak incident saw the canopy fly off the cockpit of one of the fighters at around 30,000 feet last week. The pilot and navigator managed to maintain control of the aircraft, despite a wind chill reaching lower than -49 degrees Fahrenheit and a great deal of turbulence.

Immediately after the canopy flew off, the crew was able to ascertain that neither had been injured over the deafening wind noise. From there, they contacted the control tower at Nevatim Air Base, about nine miles north of their position. They notified the tower to prepare for an emergency landing.

“The pilot, Captain Y., and the navigator, 1st Lieutenant R., conducted the event in complex conditions where there was a real risk to the plane and crew,” read a statement by the Israel Defense Forces. “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.”

In an audio recording released by the Israeli government, the pilot, navigator and tower can be heard discussing the situation in Hebrew. Even if you don’t speak the language, the intensity of the situation, as well as the calm resolve of the fighter’s crew, are both glaringly apparent through their tone of voice and cadence alone. This video also provides a real-time translation.

“It went from 0-to-100,” one senior official said after the fact. “Imagine you go from the quiet in the canopy to a massive boom and being exposed to all the elements. You have to think, am I injured? Is my co-pilot okay? There are many things the pilots have to deal with within seconds.”

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According to the Israeli statement, there have only been two other incidents that involved an F-15’s canopy detaching mid-flight: one in 2004 within the Israeli Air Force and one in 2014 with a U.S. Air Force F-15. However, despite the rarity of the situation, all Israeli F-15 flights have been postponed while the investigation is underway.

“We are already in contact with the American manufacturer to understand the nature of the problem and its source,” the senior officer said, adding that the “F-15 has undergone changes and adjustments over the years and is still considered to be the most significant aircraft in the Israeli Air Force.”


Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons