The Navy has released pilot video of the crash of a T-45C Goshawk training aircraft at Lake Worth, Texas, in September of 2021 in which the aircraft ingested a vulture. The aircraft’s engine quit and although the runways were in sight, the crew, an instructor and student, didn’t have the altitude to glide home. “We are trying to make it to the runway,” a pilot tells controllers. “Yeah, we’re not gonna make it. We’re gonna eject.” 

The aircraft stayed in a level descent for a moment then fell out of control after the pilots punched out. The crash damaged three homes in a residential area but didn’t cause any serious injuries on the ground. The student was electrocuted when his parachute tangled in power lines. He suffered serious burns. The instructor suffered minor injuries and was released after a short stay in a local hospital.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Birds have imperiled planes since the dawn of human flight. During flight briefing spiels we used to recite to Air Force pilots, we would wedge-in the caveat “Watch for the birdies”, with flattened tones. Nine times out of nine, their planes would return without guts and feathers splattered on the wings or other components. This is an example (among thousands of examples..) of the tenth possibility.

  2. Wow! events can happen fast! I’m glad the outcome was only a crashed airplane and no injuries on the ground, did the student return to flight status? If so I bet he has several new call signs.

  3. The student was burned when he impacted powerlines in his chute, overcame an ordeal in recovery, but is finally back flying. Great kid, great attitude, going to do well in Naval Aviation.


  4. Bird collisions are one area where piston powered planes have a definite advantage over jets. Bird engine ingestion is a very real threat to jet engines. And has brought many of them down. The danger to piston powered planes seems more threatening if they hit the windshield, causing it to fail and then injuring the pilot. Usually jets are pressurized and have windshields strong enough to deflect a bird when struck. But unpressurized piston planes can have a plexiglass windshield as thin as 1/8″ or less, which can be easily penetrated by a bird strike. But at least in their cases the engine keeps running.

  5. And another military crash where pilots depart the aircraft via ejection seats (according to protocall) and civilian lives beneath the approach are placed in severe danger. It’s only incredible good fortune that the three homes damaged or destroyed by the pilotless aircraft were not occupied when the aircraft was abandoned. No kudos earned for the response to this mishap.

    • So what are you saying? That the crew should have ridden the airplane down and died in the crash?
      This is an old argument but who built houses under the approach path? I’ll bet that airport was originally built out in the middle of nowhere.

    • That jet was going to crash into that neighborhood with or without the crew in it. What would the advantage have been for them to stay with the jet?

  6. Sounds like the aircraft may have stalled prior to ejection? One pilot called, “pull up, pull up”. Looked like it stalled by the way the nose pitched down.

    • Truthfully, a stall right at ejection may be the best thing to do. A stall spin and an airplane falling straight down makes a much smaller wreckage path than one traveling forward at 150 knots.

  7. It can happen very fast! Several years ago I was taking my mother and mother in Law over the coast range back to the central valley from SNS, cruising at 7,500 when a black speck appeared in front of the A/C. That speck grew into a California Condor in a matter in less than two seconds, and a quick reflexive dive avoided contact. Let me tell you that a 6’+ wingspan bird does quickly completely fill the windshield view. Contact would most likely have been fatal for all involved.

  8. I was new on the B727 back in “66 at the time when Cessna came out with their jet.
    We would take off & immediately go to 400k for the climb.
    It was said that the Cessna jet was the only jet that would have birdstrikes from the rear! ha

  9. Am I missing something here?
    When they realized they couldn’t make the runway and punched out, were they not previously looking for alternate options, such as fields and roads? This is or should have been (in their case) part of standard pilot training.

    Fly it down and make a relatively safe, low damage landing. Ejection seats are virtually guaranteed to result in injuries.

  10. Can somebody tell me what the numbers on the right side of the HUD mean?

    They were on short final and probably only a couple hundred feet AGL and a few seconds from touchdown. There was no time to maneuver to some alternate area. A jet fighter (and this is a fighter trainer) glides like a rock. There was no time to do anything other than eject.

  11. All this talk of maneuvering to an ” alternative option ” to the landing runway— at a low level, reduced airspeed, down & dirty, is nonsense. There was no alternative. The aircraft was coming down right then and there without without crew. Eject. Period. Low-level ejections are defined as ejection below 500 feet above ground level. Results: There were 562 low-level ejections identified. Out of this number, there were 274 fatalities, giving a low-level ejection survival rate of 51.2%. There were 2607 ejections that occurred above 500 feet with a survival rate of 91.4% that covered the period 1952-1997.Ejecting from an aircraft below 500 feet has a lower survival rate compared with the survival rate for all ejections. This is due to many factors, including the nature of the emergency, aircraft operating parameters at the time, and the inherent dangers of low-level operations. Low-level emergencies are time-critical events in which an early decision to eject can improve the chances of a successful outcome. DOI: 10.3357/asem.3626.2013

  12. All this talk of maneuvering to an ” alternative option ” to the landing runway— at a low level, reduced airspeed, down & dirty, is nonsense. There was no alternative. The aircraft was coming down right then and there with OR without crew. Eject. Period.

  13. What is the stall speed of a T45C in the configuration of the aircraft? What is the minimum altitude for ejection? Stretching glides never works, I agree. However, the metric of “lose the engine – leave aircraft” with no delay is basedon the assumption that there is no energy available to avoid crashing into occupied homes other occupied structures. Yes, the aircraft stalled immediately after the crew departed. But, was allowing the aircraft to stall necessarily the best option if overflying residential areas? Did the aircraft have an auto pilot? Are there no data on performance of that trainer absent thrust? In my view the AvWeb report lacks detail that would justify the actions of the crew.

    Frankly, had just one of the houses been occupied and a family killed the crew would likely have been generated outrage in the media, in the community, and by the families who lost loved ones. The aircraft was UNDER CONTROL and therefore could have changed course, if only slightly to avoid homes, at least until abandoned by its crew. The plane only precipitously fell out of the sky when the crew’s absence allowed it to stall.

    • Yeah, use of an autopilot would have made all the difference – the fact that the aircraft had lost its engine and therefore had no thrust at low altitude and low speed is no excuse for not just “steering” the airplane to safety!

      Why, oh why, didn’t the crew maneuver and ride the stricken airplane down to just a few inches from the ground before ejecting? I mean, there’s no reason they couldn’t have done that as well as avoid hitting anything, right?

      Your comments are preposterous and suggest you know very little about the realities of flying or the life or death situation this crew faced and fortunately survived.