The crew of a F-4E fighter reported a possible hydraulic problem before smoke filled the cockpit and the pilot passed out, forcing another officer to make an emergency landing, officials said Saturday.
Both men were ejected from the jet as it taxied down a runway Friday night at Baer Field, where their unit, the 122nd Tactical Fighter Wing, is based. There had been initial reports that the plane crashed.The pilot later died; the cause of death was not immediately known, the Indiana Air National Guard said Saturday. An autopsy was performed Saturday, but the cause of death will not be released until the investigation is completed, said Allen County Coroner Phillip O'Shaughnessy.
"The aircraft took off around 7:30 p.m. and reported a possible hydraulic pressure problem. Shortly thereafter, smoke was reported in the cockpit and then that the pilot was incapacitated for unknown reasons," said a National Guard statement read by Tactical Sgt. Joseph Manier.
It was not clear where the smoke originated or if there was a fire in the cockpit, as had been reported Friday after the incident.
"That hasn't been confirmed," 1st Sgt. James Snider said of the fire possibility Saturday. "It has been confirmed there was smoke in the cockpit."
The Guard would not say how the unconscious pilot ejected or why the men ejected while the lane was taxiing. On Friday, control tower supervisor Larry Schneider said the plane crashed. But Guard officials Saturday said the plane skidded several thousand feet and stopped in the grass next to the runway.
After the pilot, 1st Lt. Dave E. Kruse, 26, passed out, the only other person aboard, weapons officer Maj. Wilbert J. Elliott, made an emergency landing under the escort of another jet, the Guard said.
"He wasn't trained to fly the airplane," said Lt. Col. Rick Clevenger said. "It's (landing the aircaft) not an easy thing to do even if you had experience."
Elliott was treated at Lutheran Hospital and released, and returned to normal duty Saturday, the Guard said.
Kruse, of Fort Wayne, was pronounced dead at Lutheran Hospital after the landing.