VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - The U.S. Navy has released its findings on exactly what caused an F/A-18D jet to malfunction and crash into a Virginia Beach apartment complex on April 6.
On April 6, the F/ A-18D suffered a catastrophic mechanical malfunction and crashed just after noon shortly after takeoff, according to Capt. Mark Weisgerber, Deputy Commander for the Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic.
That crash devastated several buildings and destroyed 27 of the 64 apartments at the Mayfair Mews Apartments off Fleming Drive.
No lives were lost and no serious injuries were reported as a result of the crash.
"Pull up!" resounded loudly through a hangar at Naval Air Station Oceana early Monday afternoon as officials from the U.S. Navy walked through the movements of both the jet and the pilots on that fateful Good Friday, all leading up the fiery crash.
Three Navy officials sat at a table, explaining the Navy's findings on the investigation into what caused the catastrophic mechanical malfunction. According to the Navy, a fully qualified junior grade Naval Aviator along with a fully qualified Lieutenant Naval Flight Officer took off from NAS Oceana and only spent about 70 seconds in the air before crashing.
Roughly two seconds after takeoff, the pilot experienced serious vibration, causing the crew to believe a tire had blown. At that time, the pilot was instructed to stay below 250 knots.
Just five seconds after takeoff, an aural caution signaled "engine right, engine right," indicating the right engine was the first to experience a catastrophic mishap. Naval documents report "the high pressure compressor section blades" failed because the engine ingested a flammable liquid.
The cause of the leak remains under investigation at this time and Naval investigators have not speculated on any potential leads.
What happened next was said to be extremely rare.
According to the report released by the Navy, the left engine experienced a blowout that went undetected by the engine control system. Because the most important evidence to explain the anomaly was destroyed by the resulting crash and fire, investigators are unable to determine the root cause of the blowout.
What investigators are able to determine from the sequence of events is that the anomaly was most likely caused by a fuel delivery failure. The Navy also said an electrical failure of the electrical control assembly, afterburner fuel control and electrical "green" harness could have contributed.
"Approaching 100 feet above ground level and just prior to ejection, the aircraft departed controlled flight characterized by rolling and yawing to the right due to a combination of asymmetric thrust, high angle of attack and low airspeed," the report read.
The plane then continued to roll to the right, plummeting another 50 feet. At that time, the instructor and pilot ejected from the jet, which then crashed into the apartment complex.
A total of nine people were injured as a result of the crash, including the pilot and instructor, who suffered minor injuries that required physical rehabilitation and a period of light duty. No one suffered life-threatening injuries and it is unknown when the pilot and instructor can return to flight status.
The jet was was destroyed and data provided by the Naval Safety Center indicated the cost was around $64.1 million.
All residents at Mayfair Mews Apartments were offered emergency compensation for temporary food and housing. Minor damage was noted at adjacent properties and vehicles parked at or near the complex.
On May 9, the site was cleared as safe.
At this time, the claims process for those affected by the crash is still ongoing, with residents continuing to file claims for their losses.
As always, the investigation remains ongoing as well. Stay with WAVY.com for more on what could have caused the flammable liquid leak that resulted in the right engine's failure.
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