News | Dec. 19, 2023

Harrowing Harriers

By Grampaw Pettibone; Illustration by Ted Wilbur 

A section of AV-8B Harriers was scheduled to fly a day training sortie and hot pit, and then perform night carrier qualification to regain currency.
Shortly after takeoff, the mishap pilot reported to his lead that he had a fuel flow proportioner, or PROP, caution. He secured the PROP system and balanced the fuel manually in accordance with NATOPS procedures.

After landing from the day event, the mishap pilot, his flight lead, and the squadron landing signal officer (LSO) discussed the situation and decided to continue the mission and launch the aircraft into the pattern for the required night landing.
A fuel proportioner malfunction is a downing discrepancy, a fact known to all three.

Because of an unrelated malfunction, the flight lead’s aircraft was shut down prior to the night event. After taking on fuel and water, the mishap aircraft was launched into the Case III pattern for his night landing. Approximately 2 miles from landing, the engine RPM began to fluctuate. The pilot executed his NATOPS immediate action items and initiated a wave off. After climbing to 1,500 feet, the pilot reported his RPM was fluctuating between 75 and 95 percent and began a turn downwind to enter the Case I pattern. After turning off of the 180, the aircraft descended below glide path. Passing the 90, the pilot selected full power and leveled his wings, but could not arrest his rate of descent. The pilot ejected at approximately 40 feet above ground level.