Moments after impact, flames engulfed the AV-8B Harrier jet as it crashes into homes in Imperial. Minutes later, bystanders came to the rescue of the pilot, who had ejected and survived.
As the U.S. military begins the investigation, the interview with that pilot is critical.
“Sounds like he was dealing with some sort of aircraft mechanical problem, so now he can tell them about what he was dealing with, what indications he had in the cockpit and what he was doing about it until he thought it was about time to eject, ” said Rich Martindell, a former Air Force aviation accident investigator and current air safety consultant.
After the pilot ejected. he was taken to the hospital. Martindell said his medical and training records will be examined. Also, a Field Naval Aviator Evaluation Board or Field Flight Performance Board will look at the actions of the pilot, and it will be determined whether the aviator should continue to fly.
Another investigation, the Aircraft Mishap Safety Investigation, will search for the cause. Martindell said that would also include mechanical records and data collected from communication with air traffic control.
“At some point in time, if something started to happen with the airplane, he would declare an emergency with air traffic control, tell them what his problem is, where he wants to go and what he wants to do,” Martindell said.
A JAGMAN Investigation looks for cause, responsibility and damage assessment. In the case of the Harrier in Imperial, the loss is the homes -- two destroyed, one heavily damaged -- the street, other damages and the plane.
In the case of the FA-18E Super Hornet off the USS Carl Vinson, the $55 million dollar jet was the loss.
This is the second time that a Harrier from MCAS Yuma has crashed in less than a month. In both crashes, the jets were a total loss, but there has been no loss of life. The commanding general of 3rd Air Craft Wing Maj. Gen. Steven Busby said in a statement:
"We are committed to a thorough cleanup of the crash site and will continue our remediation efforts until the area meets standards set forth by the County's Department of Environmental Health. We greatly appreciate the community's patience and understanding during this difficult time."