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#1 AMARC Experience Webmaster   2013-02-09 19:46

QF-4E, T/N 68-0371, 70 Miles East of Holloman AFB NM. 6 JULY 2011

On 6 July 2011 at approximately 1014 local time (L), the Mishap Aircraft (MA), a QF-4E, Tail Number 68-0371, departed controlled flight during an Adversary Support Training (AST) mission and impacted the ground approximately 70 miles east of Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The Mishap Pilot (MP) ejected safely and landed approximately one mile northwest of the MA crash site. The MA and MP were assigned to Detachment 1, 82d Aerial Targets Squadron at Holloman AFB. The MA was totally destroyed upon impact with the loss valued at $2,405,543.84. The MP sustained only minor injuries. There was no damage to personal property.

The Mishap Sortie was planned, briefed, and flown as an AST mission to gain proficiency in coordinated maneuvers and communication contracts. The Mishap Flight consisted of three aircraft. The MP flew as the training platform against Mishap Wingman 1 (MW1) and Mishap Wingman 2 (MW2). The mishap training scenario was the second scenario planned for the mission. The objective of the scenario was for MW1 and MW2 to work together to achieve a simulated kill against the MP. After flying past MW1’s aircraft, the MP started a right hand turn to begin maneuvering towards MW2. After completing about 45 degrees of turn, the MA experienced a rapid un-commanded pitch up resulting in an estimated 9 G loading. The high G loading caused the MA to rapidly rotate to an extremely nose-high orientation. The MP properly executed the initial steps for out of control recovery in accordance with the emergency checklist. The MP was not able to regain control of the MA and decided to eject.

Post-mishap wreckage inspection clearly revealed the stabilator (stab) actuator, which controls aircraft pitch, had come disconnected from the MA. The locking tab washer which secures the stab actuator to the MA was improperly manufactured and had failed due to fatigue. Because the locking tab washer became disconnected, the actuator piston spun free from the rod-end due to aircraft vibrations; this resulted in a complete loss of pitch control of the MA. Engineering analysis also revealed the jam nut to rod-end of the mishap stab actuator was not sufficiently tightened, allowing the tab washer to weaken over a period of time.

The Accident Investigation Board President found by clear and convincing evidence the cause of the mishap was the stab actuator disconnecting from the MA, causing the MA to depart controlled flight. The stab actuator disconnected because of a material failure of its locking tab washer. Additionally, the Board President found by a preponderance of the evidence a substantially contributing factor to the mishap was an insufficiently tightened stab actuator jam nut.

Under 10 U.S.C. § 2254(d), the opinion of the accident investigator as to the cause of, or the factors contributing to, the accident set forth in the accident investigation report may not be considered as evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding arising from the accident, nor may such information be considered an
admission of liability of the United States or by any person referred to in those conclusions or statements.

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