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F-16 PILOT FELT, HEARD NOISES

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A crash report released Thursday says Capt. Michael Goldfein heard and felt banging noises while flying a training attack on Sept. 20 in his F-16CG.

"Knock it off" he called over the radio - a signal used in peacetime to immediately suspend training activities for safety of flight reasons.He had just lost sight of his wingman. His first thought was that he had collided with the other jet. That wasn't the case, but something was definitely wrong. "You didn't hit me, did you?" wingman Capt. Bjorn Granviken asked. "Negative. I don't think so," Goldfein responded.

At 11:01 a.m., about 12 minutes after the trouble began, Goldfein was dangling from a parachute while his F-16 streaked toward a cornfield in Hooper where it crashed two minutes later. No one on the ground was hurt. An Air Force helicopter plucked Goldfein from the lake. He was also uninjured.

Goldfein and Granviken were flying over the Utah Test and Training Range west of the Great Salt Lake about 10:30 a.m. when Goldfein started hearing noises. The investigation concluded the bang was caused by an engine stall that was the result of a progressive failure of the engine's number four roller bearing assembly.

Goldfein didn't know at the time what was wrong but knew he was losing power. He jettisoned his external fuel tanks to lighten his troubled jet and streaked homeward - east across the Great Salt Lake toward Hill Air Force Base.

Goldfein worked through other emergency procedures with the flying supervisor in the tower at Hill. But his engine speed kept dropping. The bangs continued. The bad bearing was continually slowing the rpm of the engine's turbine.

"Got any other ideas?" Goldfein asked the tower before trying to boost the rpm on his engine by trying to reignite the fuel. "I think this engine is just going to eat itself."

"Now the engine's quitting," Goldfein told the tower. "I'm in the zoom. I'm going to have to get out."

Pilots "in the zoom" increase the pitch of the aircraft, sacrificing their remaining air speed in a last-ditch effort to gain altitude before bailing out. The additional altitude puts more distance between them and the ground.

"OK. Reaching up. I'm getting out," he told the tower. The wingman watched as the canopy popped and Goldfein ejected.

"I have a good chute. Good chute. Jet in sight. I'm tally (can see) the aircraft," Granviken said.

Goldfein, attached to the 421st Fighter Squadron, has more than 1,000 flying hours in F-16s and received "exceptionally qualified" ratings on his last emergency procedures evaluation.

Investigating officer Lt. Col Robert L. Armour Jr., concluded Goldfein could have flown to and landed at the Wendover airfield had he made a quicker diagnosis of the problem of if he had made his initial heading toward Wendover instead of trying to return to Hill. But the landing would have been "extremely challenging" and would not have assured a "safe recovery."

Armour concluded Goldfein should have waited longer in one of his attempts to "air start" the engine, according to standard procedure, but that it would have made no difference in the outcome given the engine's progressive failure because of the disintegrating bearing assembly.

"All other actions by Capt. Goldfein were consistent with good judgment and flight manual guidance," the investigator wrote.

Goldfein is currently on a flying mission with his squadron in Turkey, where the F-16s are enforcing a no-fly zone over northern Iraq.