Local News

As Military Investigates Crash, Retired General Says Ejection Was Pilots' Only Option

Posted June 5, 2003

— More than 24 hours after a Seymour Johnson fighter jet went down in a fiery crash in Johnston County, military investigators still were searching for the cause.

The F-15E Strike Eagle went down south of Four Oaks. The two crewmen aboard, 1st Lt. Christopher Jackson and Maj. John Voorhees, ejected safely just seconds before the crash. But what was going through their minds as the plane went down?

Retired Brigadier Gen. Bob Norman, who spent more than 30 years in the Air Force, said the pilots' only option was to eject.

Norman has more than 400 hours of combat flying time to his credit. He's flown his share of fighter jets, including all versions of the F-4.

Norman said that, based on his experiences in the cockpit, the crew either experienced a fire in the cockpit, a "double flame-out" or a catastropic hydraulics failure.

"What actually moves the elevators and the rudders is hydraulics," Norman said. "You lose the hydraulics, and nothing would move."

According to Norman, there's no way to crash-land an F-15 once a pilot loses control, because the throttle feels like it's cement.

"You can't move anything," he said.

Norman said that once Jackson and Voorhees decided to bail out, they were fortunate there was open terrain below and not a neighborhood.

He said he's not surprised they ejected without injuries -- a testament to their training.

"They teach you to get your feet, back and elbows in and your back straight," Norman said. "Get your spine straight; that's the critical thing, straight spine, because then you avoid the injuries."

Seymour Johnson has put together an interim board to investigate the crash. Also, people who find any parts from this downed aircraft are advised to contact the Air Force base.

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