Wednesday, March 7, 2012

07 MAR 12

Lex is dead!
In my opinion, "Neptunus Lex," is/was the best blog on the web.
Lex, in real life, was retired Navy Captain Carroll LeFon.
He'd been a fighter pilot.
He chafed at retirement.
Doing the 9 to 5, sitting in a cube, began to wear thin. 
He did his best to adapt to civilian life... and succeeded, mostly.

BUT... that part of him that was a navy fighter pilot kept prodding.
He was offered, and accepted, a position with a military contracting
company that provided adversarial aircraft for USN pilots to train against.
His aircraft was the Israeli-built F-21 Kfir.

After an early morning launch this day, returning to base
at NAS Fallon, his plane crashed while landing, killing him.

After reading his daily blog these past seven years,
I felt as though he were a friend... though I'd never met him.
I weep for his passing.
I weep for his family... who I've come to know through his words.
He's left behind a wife, a son, two daughters.
(...and a dachshund.)

All I can say is... Damn!
Just Damn!

R.I.P. Captain.
You'll be missed.

                                                       Captain Carroll LeFon, USN (Ret.)



I read Lex's blog only yesterday.
He was alive and articulate, as always.
He was well aware of the hazards of his chosen profession.

From his blog, yesterday, 06 March 2012
By lex, on March 6th, 2012
I supposed it had to happen eventually, everybody has one in time. And I had mine yesterday.

It was a good hop, really. Raging around down low, hiding in the mountains, waiting for a chance to pounce on the unwary. Although this is graduation week at the (prestigious) Navy Fighter Weapons School, and there are very few unwary students left. Still, good clean fun, and your host can say “Copy kill” with the best of them.

Cruised on back to the field for the recovery with few cares, being very nearly the first to land. The students being further away from the field at the knock-it-off, and the instructors taking advantage of whatever fuel they had left to whirl and flail at one another in the best traditions of the service. A tolerably precise landing, there’s the seven thousand feet to go board, and at 150 knots indicated I pulled the drag chute lever aft, bunting the nose slightly out of the aero-braking attitude to ensure a tangle-free deployment.

Which is precisely when nothing happened.

Ordinarily you feel a pretty good tug on the shoulder harness as the drag chute deploys. Not like an arrested landing aboard ship, mind. But the sensation is unmistakeable, as is the effect, particularly at higher speeds. Which I was still traveling at, the chute having either failed to deploy or parted behind me, there was no way to know. Look, there goes the six board. Still about 150 knots indicated. I’ve mentioned to you before how much runway the jet takes up during the take-off roll with the afterburner howling behind you. It takes up a surprising amount of pavement at idle, too. Especially with no drag chute. Time to go.

The procedure calls for full grunt, and drag chute lever forward to cut the chute if it’s a streamer. It takes a little while for the engine to make full thrust from idle, time spent nervously watching the departure end come up. At least I was still going pretty fast, so there wasn’t that far to go to get to fly-away speed. And I was light.

Tower cleared me to land on the left runway, which is a few thousand feet longer. Much to the dismay of a student whose need to land was at least as great as my own, the right runway being fouled by a drag chute, and hizzoner being low fuel state as he subsequently admitted under protest when he was asked to go-around and make room for me. But based on the timing he was now second in line for special handling. There’s a good man, wait your turn and ‘fess up first in the future. I hope you’ve learned something from this.

I was already pretty low on fuel myself, so I didn’t need to burn down gross weight. Flew about as slow as I could without risking a tail strike or hard landing, she does not like to fly slow. Still about 185 knots in the round-out. With no drag chute the book calls for aerobraking until 130 knots, and judicious use of the wheel brakes from that point on, balanced across the length of the runway remaining. You’re a long time holding the aero-braking attitude with no chute. You go  by a lot of runway. Depending upon headwinds or tailwinds and runway length, one might even shut the engine down to reduce residual thrust.

I didn’t in the event, but the brakes – and anti-skid – got a pretty good workout. When I taxied back to the line the maintenance guys told me to go away for 10 minutes. Just in case the brakes might, you know: Catch fire. Which they didn’t, so no harm done.

It’s funny how quickly you can go from “comfort zone” to “wrestling snakes” in this business.

But even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses."


NTSB Identification: DCA12PA049
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 06, 2012 in Fallon, NV
Aircraft: ISRAEL AIRCRAFT INDUSTRIES F21-C2, registration: N404AX
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On March 6, 2012 at 0914 pacific standard time, an Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Kfir F-21C2 single-seat turbojet fighter type aircraft, registration N404AX, operated by Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) under contract to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) as a civil pubic aircraft operation, crashed upon landing at Naval Air Station Fallon, Fallon, Nevada. The sole occupant pilot aboard was killed, and the airplane was substantially damaged by impact forces and fire. The flight had departed Fallon at 0752 the same day, and attempted to return following an adversary training mission. The pilot initiated two Ground Control Approach (GCA) radar approaches to Fallon and then attempted to divert to Reno but was unable to land there as the field was reporting below minimum weather conditions. The pilot then turned back toward Fallon and stated to air traffic controllers that he was in a critical fuel state. The pilot descended and maneuvered first toward runway 31, then toward runway 13. The airplane struck the ground in an open field in the northwest corner of the airport property and impacted a concrete building on the field. Weather at the time of the accident was reported as snowing with northerly winds of 23 knots gusting to 34 knots, and visibility between one-half and one and one-half miles.

                    ( Fair winds and following seas, Sir. )

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