We lost an F-22 Raptor yesterday. The pilot was killed in the accident. I don't think they've released much in the way of detail, but this machine is the top of the line so far as our technology is concerned, so my first question, since the airplane had to have had a Zero/Zero ejection seat installed was, "Why didn't he un-ass the airplane?"
Discussing the accident brought to mind another from years ago:
I was still flying Hueys in the ARMY Reserve. We were called to assist in the recovery of the remains of the pilot of a Fighter (for a couple reasons I don't want to go into too much detail here) that had crashed North of our base. The pilot and airplane were based at Edwards AFB and he had test-pilot credentials.
He had flown the airplane through the top of a Thunderstorm and had damaged/flamed out both engines. He stayed with the aircraft trying to restart the engines, lost control, and crashed in a near-vertical attitude going approximately 400 miles per hour. The crater formed by his collision with the ground was about 30 feet in diameter by 10 feet deep, and was adjacent to a stream which overflowed its banks during the thunderstorm, washing much of his remains and some of the aircraft debris downstream, forever lost to investigators.
Only big parts survived, both of the aircraft and the pilot. The rest was literally vaporized. Landing gear legs and engine cores remained. All that remained of the test pilot were big joints... knees, pelvis, some knuckles, bits of hair, and his entire left palm. We carried all we could find of him back to our base in a 5-gallon plastic pail covered with a towel, and it wasn't close to full.
Why did he stay in the airplane? Conjecture was that he had flown through the top of the Thunderstorm and had encountered thick hail stones, seriously damaging the engines and other parts of the Fighter. It's just not wise to fly through Thunderstorms and he knew it. Losing the airplane this way would not be a career-improving move.
Plus, he's a test pilot... if anyone can save this airplane, a pilot with his skills can!
So now we wait to see what investigators find in the loss of the newest, most expensive Fighter in our inventory. I hope they can tell us why he didn't "punch out".