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 Table of Contents  
CASE REPORT
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 101-103

Death of two military pilots in Hawk-108 fighter jet crash


1 Department of Forensic Medicine, National Institute of Forensic Medicine, Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2 Institute of Pathology, Laboratory and Forensic Medicine, Universiti Teknologi MARA; Centre of Oral and Maxillofacial Diagnostics and Medicine Studies, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Selangor, Malaysia

Date of Web Publication29-Jun-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Mohd Yusmiaidil Putera Mohd Yusof
Institute of Pathology, Laboratory and Forensic Medicine, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Campus Sungai Buloh, Jalan Hospital, 47000 Sungai Buloh, Selangor
Malaysia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_91_17

Rights and Permissions
  Abstract 


Deaths associated with emergency seat ejection are rare. This is the first case reported in Malaysia since 1980 involving the death of two renowned fighter pilots postejection as safety measures. Ejection mechanism involves several phases which last for splits of seconds. Each phase has its own setback despite serving as a safety mechanism. Both the pilots' death was as a result of the canopy separation, windblast effect, G-force effect (gravitational force) as well as acceleration effect. High speed and high altitude would have further contributed to the death.

Keywords: +Gz-induced loss of consciousness, air crash, ejection mechanism


How to cite this article:
Ly CK, Yusof MY, Hasmi AH, Mahmood MS. Death of two military pilots in Hawk-108 fighter jet crash. J Forensic Sci Med 2018;4:101-3

How to cite this URL:
Ly CK, Yusof MY, Hasmi AH, Mahmood MS. Death of two military pilots in Hawk-108 fighter jet crash. J Forensic Sci Med [serial online] 2018 [cited 2021 Sep 27];4:101-3. Available from: https://www.jfsmonline.com/text.asp?2018/4/2/101/235446




  Introduction Top


This is the case reporting mortality of two renowned fighter pilots postejection as safety measures in Malaysia, since 1980 till date.

Since the late 1940s, ejection seats have been fitted in military aircrafts but not in civil aircrafts for the following reasons. In Malaysia, since 1980 till date, only few cases of Hawk fighter jet crash had been reported. Nonetheless, this is the first case reported involving mortality of two renowned fighter pilots postejection as safety measures. Ejection seat is a system designed in an aircraft for the sake of rescuing the pilot or the crew in an emergency situation. Military pilots wore a suitable suit (anti-G suit) that can act as an lifesaver advantage if the ejection takes place at a high-altitude environment.[1] It is not efficient to build emergency seat ejection for each passenger in civil aircraft in order to give an equivalent chance to each of them for safety purposes.[1],[2] The propelling of the seats needs high fuel, which involves a few phases and happens in splits of seconds.[3] There are a few steps involved after the ejection seat activation. It starts with canopy separation producing a loud bang followed by the seat moves along the rails and out of the aircraft at an angle. Next, a rocket fires to move the seat higher up and away from the aircraft. Then, a tiny drogue parachute opens to. It is not sufficient for the pilot to land with it; hence, it only aids in preventing the pilot to tumble out of control. If it is below 10,000 ft and once the drogue chute activates, it pulls out the main parachute at the same time as the ejection seat mounting points are disengaged from the pilot's harness. Therefore, the seat falls away and the pilot is left floating on the big chute until the pilot gets landed.[3] All these happen in splits of seconds. In newer two-seater jets, the ejection seats are synchronized and hence activating one triggers the other. The co-pilot sitting in the rear seat will eject first; otherwise, the rocket from the pilot seat will burn the person sitting behind. Overall, ejection survival was 89.2%.[4] Typical survival rates quoted in the literature vary from 80% to 97%.[5] However, each phase of ejection has its own setback.[6] This case report attempts to highlight the correlation of sequence in ejection mechanism steps to the postmortem findings involving two Royal Malaysia Air Force personnel who were killed in the crash of their Hawk Mk 108 trainer during a check flight. The crash occurred about 51 km north of the Kuantan airbase. They were then found about 20 m apart from each other in a mangrove forest near Kampung Chukai, Kemaman, Terengganu, on the same day.

This incident has been chosen as the case had been concluded and hence does not compromise military intelligence. Wherever possible, an attempt has been made to use the findings at autopsy to explain the possible clinical correlation to the pilots involved.

This case report attempts to highlight the correlation of sequence in ejection mechanism steps to the postmortem findings involving the deceased. The institutional review board and ethics commitee have approved this study (KKM.NIHSEC.800-4/4/1 Jld.52(37)).


  Case Reports Top


Case presentation 1

The deceased was a 31-year-old Malay male, who was found hanging on a tree by his parachute. The crash occurred about 51 km north of the Kuantan airbase. They were then found about 20 m apart from each other in a mangrove forest near Kampung Chukai, Kemaman, Terengganu, on the same day. The weather was good on the day of incident.

He was pronounced dead at scene. He was the front pilot. The parachute harness was intact with the main chute, with no tangling of the parachute lines seen around his neck or body. The helmet was found on the ground with the strap missing.

Autopsy findings

An autopsy examination was performed on the same day. The deceased was of an average build (body mass index [BMI]: 20.98 kg/m 2, normal BMI according to the WHO) with a height of 176 cm and weighing around 65 kg. Previous history of medical illness was insignificant. He was clad in a green flying suit. The outer layer consisted of unzipped, unbuckled harness flying vest. The inner layer consisted of a full flying suit. The left boot was in situ, with parts of the sole detached. The right boot was missing. The anti-G suit was torn over the right lower shin. The conjunctivae were pale, with minimal blue petechial hemorrhages seen at the right eye. Multiple white flakes were seen over the anterior neck. The anterior aspect of the neck showed the presence of multiple white flakes. There were blisters seen at the posterior aspect of the neck, right shoulder, and anteromedial aspect of the upper right thigh. He had dicing injuries with punctate hemorrhages over the face, neck, flexor surfaces of the arm, forearm, and back of both hands besides some lacerations and bruises [Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]b. The scalp showed minimal petechial hemorrhages over the left occipital region. The chest cavity showed bilateral pneumothorax, with minimal hemothorax on the left side. The lungs were collapsed bilaterally (right: 380 g, left: 315 g), with multiple sites of lung ruptures and left upper-lobe contusion [Figure 1]c. The heart weighed 295 g and showed near-total occlusion of the left anterior descending the coronary artery, around 2.5 cm from the ostium, measuring 0.5 cm in length. There was no evidence of infarct or fibrosis. The skeletal system showed closed fracture of the right humerus and closed fracture of the left tibia and fibula, with dislocation of the left knee. Extensive subcutaneous hemorrhages of bilateral upper limbs and lower limbs and in between the muscles of bilateral lower limbs were seen [Figure 1]d. Histological examination confirmed the gross findings mentioned above. Toxicology analysis was negative for ethyl alcohol and common drugs.
Figure 1: Autopsy findings from the front pilot: (a) dicing injury, (b) helmet print, (c) lung collapse, (d) pooling of blood

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Case presentation 2

The deceased was a 39-year-old Malay male, who was found lying sideways on a wet grass area with soft soil surrounding (as described above). He was pronounced dead at scene. He was the rear seat pilot for the Hawk-108 fighter jet. The parachute harness was intact with the main chute hanging on a tree next to him, with the lines untangled. There was no big splash due to the hard fall noted. It was a soft landing as no big splash due to hard fall was noted (mangrove area). The helmet was found somewhere near the body with the strap missing, while both the gloves were not found.

Autopsy findings

The deceased was of an average build (BMI: 31.11 kg/m 2 corresponding to Type 1 obesity according to the WHO classification) with a height of 150 cm and weighing 70 kg. Previous history of medical illness was insignificant. He was clad in a fully equipped olive flying suit with blood stained over the left lower aspect, olive anti-G suit, and a pair of black boot, which was torn over the right back and blood stained on the left. The conjunctivae were pale, with minimal petechial hemorrhages seen. The hypostases were feeble in color and present over the back of the body except areas of pressure. He had dicing injuries with punctate abrasions over the face, neck, extensor surfaces of the arm, forearm, and back of both the hands besides some lacerations and contusions [Figure 2]a and [Figure 2]b. The scalp showed minimal subgaleal contusions over the right frontal aspect and over the occiput, with no fracture of the skull. The brain showed diffused subarachnoid hemorrhage, more over the right occipitoparietal region [Figure 2]c. The chest cavity showed hemopneumothorax (50 ml) on the right side and hemothorax (100 ml) over the left side. Fractures were seen over the lateral right 1st and 2nd ribs, lateral left 1st, 2nd, and 3rd ribs, and posterior left 8th and 9th ribs, with surrounding soft-tissue contusions [Figure 2]d. The lungs were collapsed (right: 340 g and left: 300 g), with the right upper lobe contused [Figure 2]e. The heart weighed 310 g and was unremarkable. The skeletal system showed subluxation over the 6th cervical vertebra, burst fracture of the 6th, 7th, and 8th thoracic vertebrae, closed fracture of bilateral proximal radius and ulna, and open comminuted fracture of the left tibia and fibula. Histological examination confirmed the gross findings mentioned above. Toxicology analysis was negative for ethyl alcohol and common drugs.
Figure 2: Autopsy findings from the rear pilot: (a) dicing injury, (b) helmet print, (c) intracranial hemorrhage, (d) spinal injury, and (e) lung collapse

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  Discussion Top


Both pilots had been declared medically fit to fly the fighter jet during the routine training for flight check. Knot is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour (according to the calculation during the board of inquiry meeting). There is no proper reference for this; it was a value given by the board of inquiry based on the calculation from the information retrieved from the radar recordings. The ISO standard symbol for knot is kn. It was believed that the deceased had ejected from the aircraft below 10,000 ft, with the approximate speed of 700 kn. It was assumed that the aircraft was traveling at a high speed, a high dive angle, or maybe in a rolling or inverted position. The injuries sustained by both victims showed similarities to a certain extent. Externally, the dicing injuries were consistent with the phase of firing of the miniature-detonating cord and hence shattering of the canopy. Windblast on the other hand can attribute to serious injuries, especially when above 400 kn. The knee joints can get separated, dislocation of the hip joints and the upper limbs are equally vulnerable too.[7],[8] Both the front and the rear pilots sustained bilateral pneumothorax as a consequence of windblast effect. Other than that, multiple long-bone fractures were also contributed by the windblast effect. The gloves and masks of both the pilots were missing, while both the helmets were thrown off. This usually happens while flying the aircraft at a high speed and a high altitude.[9] Each phase of the ejection sequence is associated with unique injury patterns, and the occurrence of the burst compression spinal fractures was due to the upward acceleration of the ejection seat.[6],[10] It gave information of paramount importance by accurately reconstructing the sequence of events around the time of death as the injuries sustained will give us an idea whether the pilots were still alive upon ejection. In this incident, failure to perform an anti-G strain maneuver as well as the torn of anti-G suit contributed to the pooling of blood in both of the lower limbs of the front pilot,[11] subsequently leading to lack of blood perfusion to the brain and development of +Gz-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC).[12]


  Conclusion Top


The events that led to the death of the front pilot were attributed to the G-LOC and bilateral pneumothorax. As for the rear pilot, it was the spinal injury, bilateral pneumothorax, and multiple fractures of the long bones that contributed to his bereavement. Both the pilots were alive upon activating the emergency ejection seat system. The seriousness of the injuries was attributed to the windblast effect.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Bongers A, Torres JL. Technological change in US jet fighter aircraft. Res Policy 2014;43:1570-81.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Forster EM, Cammarota JP, Whinnery JE. G-LOC recovery with and without G-suit inflation. Aviat Space Environ Med 1994;65:249-53.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Abeyratne DR. Managing airspace in civil and military aviation. J Aviat Manag 2010;7:11-20.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Lewis ME. Survivability and injuries from use of rocket-assisted ejection seats: Analysis of 232 cases. Aviat Space Environ Med 2006;77:936-43.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Collins R, McCarthy GW, Kaleps I, Knox FS. Review of major injuries and fatalities in USAF ejections, 1981-1995. Biomed Sci Instrum 1997;33:350-3.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Werner U. Ejection associated injuries within the German Air Force from 1981-1997. Aviat Space Environ Med 1999;70:1230-4.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Lewis ME. Spinal injuries caused by the acceleration of ejection. J R Army Med Corps 2002;148:22-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Burns JW, Fanton JW, Robinson JL. The influence of the AGSM, PBG, and anti-G suit inflation on thoracic hemodynamics during +Gz in swine. J Gravit Physiol 1994;1:P48-51.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Ross JA. A case of G-LOC in a propeller aircraft. Aviat Space Environ Med 1990;61:567-8.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Milanov L. Aircrew ejections in the Republic of Bulgaria, 1953-93. Aviat Space Environ Med 1996;67:364-8.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Pavlović M, Pejović J, Mladenović J, Cekanac R, Jovanović D, Karkalić R, et al. Ejection experience in Serbian Air Force, 1990-2010. Vojnosanit Pregl 2014;71:531-3.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Jenkins DR. Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits - Wiley Post to Space Shuttle (NASA SP-2011–595), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2012.  Back to cited text no. 12
    


    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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