Reported on Ppprune Professional Pilot Network;
Blue Angels’ AirShow Crash
Blue Angels jet #6 crashed about 4 p.m. on Saturday 21 April, about three miles from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. The F/A18 clipped the top of a pine-tree during a formation rejoin behind the crowd, in preparation for the team’s grand finale flypast and pitch and break into the circuit for landing. The aircraft wreckage was scattered along a rural roadway, impacting a vehicle and several homes. Eight people on the ground were injured and the pilot died. The rejoin join-up comes after the downward bomb-burst known as the fleur-de-lis scatters the six team-members to the four points of the compass. Conjecture has centered upon the fact that the team doesn’t wear G suits because the sudden inflation of the suit under g onset can affect the delicate stick-grip required for close formation flying. The inference is that G-LOC (or G induced loss of consciousness) may have therefore been to blame. Others have hypothesized about the possibility of a birdstrike penetrating the canopy and disabling the pilot. However there is another possible explanation, based upon eyewitness accounts of the aircraft’s final maneuvering.
During the low-level rejoin, the traditional and classic threat is that of the concentration and focused gaze of the rejoining pilot on the low (inside) side of the leader’s turn towards him being upward (i.e. upon the lead aircraft and the aircraft that he is supposed to follow in the rejoin). If the leader banks slightly further toward the rejoining #6 for geographic positioning alignment, this can have a much magnified and disproportionate effect upon the team-member rejoining from well down on the “low side” ( i.e. it can cause (for him) an unnoticed and inadvertent height loss). This is caused by the distant rejoining team-member rolling and pushing in concert with the leader’s roll to a higher bank angle - in order to maintain his correct extended echelon rejoin “line” of relativity. This is a well-known cause of accidents in military rejoins, particularly at night or overwater - where inadequate peripheral vision of the terrain/water can fail the “low-man” formation rejoiner, simply because of where he is looking.