News | Sept. 7, 2023

A Takeoff After Burn

By Grampaw Pettibone; Illustration by Ted Wilbur

A low-time Hornet pilot was on a cross-country flight returning to the squadron. When starting the engines, the pilot noted the left engine’s oil pressure was lower than the right’s, but still within limits. After selecting maximum power for takeoff, the pilot again noted the left engine oil pressure was within limits, but 25 psi lower than the pressure on the right. During the takeoff roll, at approximately 80 knots, the pilot heard and felt a loud bang followed almost immediately by an “Engine Right” aural warning and an “R ENG STALL” caution on the digital display indicator. The pilot immediately aborted the takeoff and shut down the left engine. It was not determined if the left engine was shut down by mistake or intentionally based on the previously noted oil pressure differences.

A couple of seconds after securing the left engine, the pilot received an “Engine Fire, Right” aural warning and “Right Engine Fire” light. With the aircraft still rolling, the pilot began the engine fire procedures by shutting down the right engine and pressing the “Fire” light, which shut off fuel to the engine and armed the fire extinguishing system. Because both engines were shut down, the jet’s onboard oxygen generating system ceased producing oxygen and the pilot was forced to remove his oxygen mask. At the same time, the aircraft lost normal braking and the pilot was forced to switch to emergency brakes. Once his mask was removed and the brakes switched to emergency, the pilot restarted the engine fire procedure from the beginning. By repeating the first few steps, and pushing the “Fire” light a second time, he reopened the fuel valve and disabled the fire extinguishing system. The pilot brought the plane to a stop, secured the battery, and, noticing the aft portion of the aircraft was on fire, unstrapped and egressed the aircraft. The base fire truck was at the aircraft approximately 30 seconds after it came to a stop and quickly extinguished the fire.

The subsequent investigation revealed that the right engine suffered severe internal damage and seized. The resultant torque caused twisting damage and a split in both the engine casing near the low-pressure turbine, and another split at the oil cooler that caused the fuel leak and fire. The fire extinguishing system was examined and operated normally, but was not activated during the mishap. In addition, the engine fuel valve was in the open position, allowing a significant amount of fuel to leak from the damaged right engine, exacerbating the fire. Aircraft Glyph