Okinawa F-15 training flights resume after inspections
January 20, 2006
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — F-15 fighter-plane training flights were scheduled to restart Thursday after a Tuesday crash grounded the flights, an Air Force spokesman said Wednesday.
Fifth Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright decided to resume the flights Wednesday as preliminary investigations suggested the crash’s cause was isolated to the downed plane only, according to an Air Force news release.
“In the last 48 hours we’ve inspected all of our aircraft and are confident they are safe, airworthy and combat ready,” 18th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas stated in the news release, issued Wednesday night.
About 10 a.m. Tuesday, the single-pilot F-15C crashed in deep water 55 to 65 miles northeast of Okinawa in the Whiskey-173 training zone while training with three other F-15s.
Investigators are considering whether any potential malfunctions or maintenance oversights occurred; however, the crash is not part of a fleetwide problem with Kadena’s F-15s, Jouas indicated in his statement.
“Senior, experienced pilots, maintainers and I — people who have been flying and fixing airplanes for more than 25 years — have reviewed the initial facts,” Jouas said. “I’m confident that this accident does not indicate a problem with the overall safety of our F-15 fleet.”
The 44th Fighter Squadron pilot in the accident, whose name was not released, ejected safely from the plane and was rescued at 10:50 a.m, according to a Kadena spokesman.
Members of the 31st and 33rd Rescue Squadrons transported the pilot on an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa on Camp Lester, where he soon was released.
Three other F-15s training at Whiskey-173 returned undamaged to base following the crash. The downed pilot kept contact with a KC-135 refueling plane crew, according to Air Force reports.
The decision to restart F-15 training operations comes in the final days of Jouas’ command. He soon will take over as vice commander of the Air Intelligence Agency, Air Combat Command, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Jouas is to be replaced by Brig. Gen. Harold W. “Punch” Moulton II, director of Standing Joint Force Headquarters-North, U.S. Northern Command, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
Jouas was scheduled to make his final F-15 flight Thursday morning. He also was to receive a medal from Wright at Kadena Air Base on Thursday, a base spokesman said.
Jouas, who began his career as an F-4 pilot and later an F-15 pilot, last week cited his two fighter squadrons’ improved readiness as one of the base’s biggest achievements during his tenure.