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Thu, May 01, 2008

Ouch! RAF Pilot Puts Eurofighter On Its Belly

Advanced Fighter Lands Gear-Up At China Lake

A Royal Air Force pilot will forever carry the dubious honor of making the first belly landing in a new state-of-art Eurofighter Typhoon.

London's Daily Mail reports the incident occurred last week, during a training exercise for the RAF's 17 Squadron at California's China Lake testing facility. Neither the pilot nor the co-pilot were injured when the jet skidded down the runway on its belly, at about 130 mph.

"The damage to aircraft is still to fully assessed and as a Board of Inquiry has been convened it would not be appropriate to comment further until investigations are complete," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said Wednesday. "There's no evidence at present to suggest the airworthiness of the aircraft has been compromised and the aircraft therefore remains safe to fly."

So far, there's no indication of a mechanical problem or other issue that prevented the gear from deploying. "Everything points to the pilot forgetting to lower the wheels, which does happen from time to time," one RAF official told The Sun.

All Typhoons are equipped with a system to alert pilots if the landing gear isn't deployed on landing. The RAF hasn't taken any steps to ground the other 48 Typhoons now deployed to defend British air space.

Some Typhoons are scheduled for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, the Daily Times adds, to replace older Tornado fighters and Harrier ground-attack planes.

The incident isn't the first time a Eurofighter has sustained damage following a gear-up landing. In February 2006, a pilot was forced to land another Typhoon with its nosegear only partially deployed -- but this is the first time the Eurofighter has made a true belly-landing.

FMI: www.raf.mod.uk, www.eurofighter.com

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