A F-15D crashed in England yesterday. The 493rd Fighter Squadron (Grim Reapers) lost one of their jets, and thankfully recovered the pilot. On my first assignment, the squadron was an 18 PAA (primary aircraft assigned) and flew F-15C aircraft while maintaining one F-15D aircraft for training purposes (86-182). During my second tour, they were re-designated a 24 PAA squadron and maintained two F-15D aircraft. I flew with the 493rd Fighter Squadron for two tours and over six years during my career. For the first 10 years of the squadron’s existence (based on my overlap) I knew just about everyone who flew in the squadron.
On my final assignment, I was the 48 OSS squadron commander, responsible for operations, intelligence, weather, scheduling, base operations and air traffic control at RAF Lakenheath. For that reason, I was assigned outside of the Grim Reapers (technically attached and not assigned to the squadron). Therefore, only being attached, I was relegated to have my assigned aircraft (the one with my name) as the F-15D. Originally, I thought that aircraft was 86-182, but it was the other F-15D 84-044. I can remember flying these D-models often. We would often fly the two-seaters for training missions (with an observer), incentive flights and even reenlist some Airmen in it.
Yesterday, 86-182 crashed in Lincolnshire.
I often grieve my life in the Air Force. But today, I grieve a typical day of a Grim Reaper pilot. I know the car ride onto the base, over the taxiway, the FOD check, and the weaving around the hangers in order not to be late. I know the walk into “soft” and then “hard” ops, the check of the daily and weekly schedule. I can hear his whine when he wasn’t included on the next cross-country or deployment into mainland Europe.
I can see him planning, briefing, stepping, preflighting and starting his F-15 out at the HAS. I imagine the 4-ship launch that made the base stop for the 1:40 minutes it took for them to launch. I see crossing the North Sea Shoreline, G-Turns, Fence-In, Setting up for an engagement, calling “Fight’s on”, “Fox-3 x 2”, “Kill the F-16 in the descending right turn” , “Knock-it-off”, return to base, descending into and then below the ever-blanketing low English clouds, maintenance debrief, the flight reconstruction, the weapon school debrief and the demanded perfection. Grabbing a line-up card for tomorrow. And then opening the squadron door into the starless English night, and driving home with radio blaring, feeling unbelievably alive.
But today, I lost piece of that. So here’s a toast to aircraft 86-182….” (I wish I could fully remember the full Friday night Roll Call Grim Reaper toast, I hate getting old!)
Blessings – “Lucky”