Aviation Enthusiast Spots Malfunctioning F-15, Saves Pilot From Deadly Disaster

The photographer spotted flames and sparks coming out of the airplane and called flight control.
Loukia Papadopoulos

If you see something, say something, they say. That's exactly what one aviation enthusiast did, according to a report by the BBC

Ian Simpson called RAF Lakenheath after spotting flames and sparks protruding from Maj. Grant Thompson's F-15E Strike Eagle on take-off, averting a potentially deadly disaster.

Simpson is a photographer and an avid aviation enthusiast who often watches jets take off from the United States Air Force base in Suffolk. When he spotted something that did not seem right with one of the planes, he did something about it, a move that likely saved the pilot's life.

So much so that the pilot of the F-15E Strike Eagle told the BBC that Simpson's actions "100%" saved his life: "His initiative was awesome," he added.

Simpson said he made the call because he found the flames and sparks "shocking."

"It was quite shocking really. You do see flames called an afterburner, which they use to take off," Simpson explained. "But that is normally turned off as soon as they leave the runway."

It was this concern that led him to call the switchboard which directed him to flight control which then alerted the pilot. Thompson said that were it not for Simpson's call, he would have never noticed anything was wrong. "From our perspective, it was a normal take-off," he said.

But when he was asked to contact the base, he was then told that civilian had noticed something abnormal during the take-off. The pilot then realized it could have been a potentially life-threatening nozzle malfunction.

He added that one of the team's wingmen also noticed there was something wrong with the plane's right engine. Thomspon then proceeded to bring the aircraft back to the ground safely. No one was hurt and the plane was not damaged any further.

On Wednesday, the pilot and the photographer finally met so that Thompson could thank Simpson. The event was captured on video and posted to RAF Lakenheath's Facebook site. All is well that ends well.

The pictures of the plane in flames can be accessed here.

Most Popular