In a breathtaking emergency landing, two Israel Air Force pilots were safe after the canopy of their F-15 fighter jet suddenly blew away during a training flight at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
After taking off from Tel Nof airbase in central Israel last Wednesday, the canopy detached from the plane for reasons as yet unknown, exposing the two airmen to severe cold of -45°C, violent turbulence and deafening noise.
B’chasdei Shamayim, they were able to maintain their composure and managed to land the craft safely. A subsequent medical exam showed the two to be shaken up but uninjured.
IDF officials praised the pilot and navigator for displaying a “calm temperament” when they found themselves without warning in an extremely life-threatening situation.
An edited recording of the radio communication between the plane and the control tower was released by the military on Monday morning.
The pilot informed the nearby Nevatim airbase east of Beersheva of their predicament:
“We’re landing without a canopy, do you copy?” he asks.
Turning back to his navigator, Yud asks, “Resh, do you hear me?” (The two were identified by the air force only by initials.)
Resh responds: “Are you okay?”
“Yes, everything’s okay,” Yud answers.
The control tower operator then confirms the pilot’s request for a landing in Nevatim.
“Will you make it?” the operator asks.
“We won’t have a problem reaching the base. Keep giving us figures,” Yud responds.
Following the incident, IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin ordered a halt to all training flights for the F-15 until an investigation is completed. The military is still searching for the canopy of the 40-year-old jet.
“This is a very rare incident,” a senior officer told reporters on Monday.
According to the officer, there have only been three similar incidents where a F-15 canopy has detached mid-flight in the world. In 2004, another IAF F-15 lost its canopy and in 2014 a US Air Force F-15 fighter jet lost its canopy during routine training exercises off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. The crew landed at the Kadena Air Base with no injuries.