Pilot Safety Award of Distinction.
Shortly after takeoff, Capt Miller experienced an "engine
afterburner fail" indication accompanied by less than normal
thrust. Capt Miller began an immediate climb and coordinated to use the
airspace above the airfield to further analyze the situation. Due to his
location over a densely populated area and his ability to climb, though
at a slower than normal rate, Capt Miller decided to retain his external
stores. After attaining gliding distance to the airfield, Capt Miller
was able to determine that the engine nozzle was not responding to
changes in throttle setting. After checking engine thrust from idle to
full military power, Capt Miller decided that his engine performance was
degraded but adequate for landing. Capt Miller considered flying a steep
simulated flameout approach, but opted for a normal approach because of
reduced visual cues due to darkness. Capt Miller flew a flawless
approach and landing despite the reduced thrust and his heavy fuel load.
Upon landing, the nozzle was jarred loose from its stuck position and
became full closed. This nozzle change caused Capt Miller to experience
greater than normal idle thrust. Capt Miller was able to safely stop the
aircraft on the runway despite this sudden change in engine performance.
Post flight inspection of the engine revealed that it had switched in
flight to a lower thrust hybrid mode and that binding in the nozzle area
had further reduced the available thrust. Capt Miller's exceptional
airmanship led to the safe recovery of a $25 million combat asset.
Capt Robert Miller
4th Fighter Squadron
388th Fighter Wing
Hill AFB, Utah