The RAAF’s fleet of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets and 11 EA-18G Growlers are back flying again after an operational pause following the ejection of two crew members from a Super Hornet at Amberley on December 8.
ADBR understands the aircraft suffered a loss of nosewheel steering during takeoff at Amberley, and the crew – fearing a possible rollover – ejected from the aircraft. With the ejection sequence automatically cutting power to the engines, the aircraft rolled off the main runway and across the cross runway, before slowly coming to rest in a drainage channel.
Because of the need to accurately position Super Hornets and Growlers on crowded US Navy aircraft carrier decks, the dual nosewheel can be turned up to 90 degrees. Despite not conducting carrier operations, the RAAF retained the Super Hornet’s nose gear catapult launch bar to provide greater balance and greater steering authority.
A Defence spokesman told ADBR the RAAF’s Super Hornets and Growlers – which share common airframes, engines and landing gear – were cleared to return to flight on 18 December. “While the formal investigation to determine the cause of the accident will continue over the next several months, Air Force was satisfied that there was sufficient preliminary information available to approve the resumption of flying,” the spokesman said.
Defence added that the Defence Flight Safety Bureau (DFSB) had “released the (incident) aircraft from investigatory quarantine back to 82WG for maintenance and remediation” on February 2.
ADBR understands that initial inspections by the Air Combat and Electronic Attack System Program Office (ACEASPO) have revealed the aircraft’s cockpit suffered only minor scorching and ejection seat rocket exhaust damage, and that it will soon be returned to flight.
The RAAF’s 24 Super Hornets entered service in 2010, while 12 Growlers entered service from February 2017. One RAAF Growler was seriously damaged and subsequently written off after a crash at Nellis AFB in 2019 caused by an uncontained engine fire.