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Investigation: 'aggressive shimmy' forced Prowler off runway

May. 22, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 flight and ground crew inspect an EA-6B Prowler at MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., on April 17 before departing for low-level navigation training. An April 2 mishap in which a Prowler left the runway was likely due to a mechanical or electrical failure, a preliminary investigation has found. (Lance Cpl. Joshua R. Heins / Marine Corps)
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A preliminary investigation into a mishap during an April 2 night landing at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, found that mechanical or electric issues — not human performance — caused an EA-6B Prowler to veer off the runway, sustaining at least $1 million worth of damage.

The 20-page assessment, an “8-day brief,” found that the plane, attached to Cherry Point’s Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2, experienced an “aggressive shimmy” upon landing that caused it to veer left, plow through the grass and into a ditch some 6,000 feet away from the tarmac. While none of the three Marines aboard the aircraft for the training mission were injured and no one ejected, the Prowler did sustain damage from dirt and debris to both engines, the nose, the left wing, the speed brake assembly and the main landing gear.

The total cost of the damage was not specified.

The sudden shimmy, or oscillation of landing gear that led to the accident, appears to have been caused by a mechanical or electrical issue that occurred during that landing, according to the brief. The air crew, whose names were not released, were found to have no history of mental or medical problems, although their blood was being drawn for substance testing according to protocol at the time the brief was compiled.

After being towed to the hangar, the damaged Prowler was turned over to the Airfraft Mishap Board for a more thorough safety investigation. That investigation was not immediately released to Marine Corps Times.

The initial assessment found that the crew of the Prowler did a good job handling the plane after it began to swerve and made the correct decision to stay with the aircraft, rather than trying to eject.

“We were fortunate to come out of this incident with only a damaged aircraft,” Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commanding general for the 2nd Mairne Aircraft Wing, wrote.

In the wake of the accident, the Prowler squadron conducted a safety stand-down, reviewing landing emergency procedures and lessons learned from the incident. Officials with 2nd MAW paused operations to review “current mishap trends,” from items falling off aircraft to major aircraft accidents, and to make recommendations to Hedelund about how to avoid future incidents.

Aircraft mishaps only become public when equipment damage totals $1 million or more, or when the accident results in death or permanent injury. So far this year, three other such incidents have occurred.

On March 1, a Marine F/A-18 fighter that was on loan to the Naval Strike & Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nevada, crashed during training, killing the pilot. On May 9, an AV-8B Harrier attached to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, crashed after the pilot ejected safely. And most recently, on May 19, an MV-22 Osprey crew chief died after falling from the back of the aircraft during a training flight near Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. These incidents all remain under investigation.

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