Bad mishap aboard the JOHN C. STENNIS in the waters here off SoCal:
Ten sailors were injured Wednesday when an F/A-18C Hornet suffered a catastrophic engine failure and caught fire as a pilot was preparing to take off from the carrier John C. Stennis about 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, the Navy said.
None of the injuries is life-threatening, said Lt. Aaron V. Kakiel, spokesman for Naval Air Forces at Naval Air Station North Island. The pilot, who is with a squadron from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, was alone in the jet. He was unhurt…
The injured sailors were working on the flight deck when the incident occurred about 2:50 p.m. Pilots were training for takeoffs and landings at the time. The sailors who were injured were involved in the launch and recovery of the jets involved in the training, he said.
The jet was lined up getting ready to take off and was on the catapult when the engine malfunction and fire occurred, Kakiel said. The fire was quickly extinguished.
There was no major damage to the carrier, but there was significant damage to the plane, he said.
Back in the day we had a rash of stage 3 turbine blades that would crack, fly off, get trapped against the casing until they were a molten slug and then fling themselves through the firewall. If you were lucky the slug went outboard and you had to deal with nothing more than a nasty compressor stall. If fate was not on your side that day, the slug might transit inboard, cutting hydraulic and electrical cables on its way to fouling the other engine. The latter instance almost always led to a Martin-Baker penetration, at least until NAVAIR fortified the engine casings with a thermal wrap.
I’ve never heard of casing failure in an FA-18 powerful enough to injure bystanders, or even heard of a casing failure since the late ’80s. It’s a lucky thing for the Marine aviator that this failure mode did not manifest itself a few moments later as the catapult fired – he’d have been in a pickle. For the ground crew, not so much.
It’s a dangerous place, the flight deck.
Update: According to the LA Times, the FA-18C asploded on the flight deck. With damage in excess of $1 million.
Which, I just don’t know.