Updated: Jul 9, 2021
Today our look at aviation history takes us to the amazing events on this date in the skies over the US Navy Aircraft Carrier Abraham Lincoln sailing through the Indian Ocean. During an Air Tanker mission, the crew of a KA-6D Intruder, pilot, Lt. Mark Baden and the Bombardier/Navigator (BN) Lt. Keith Gallagher. noticed that one of the drop tanks stopped supplying fuel, but was still indicating 1000 lb of fuel inside. As the crew suspected a stuck float valve some positive and negative 'G' forces made free up the valve. Some thrust was added and at 230 knots IAS the stick was pulled back, raising the nose ~5 degrees, then the stick was pushed forward and about -0,5 G was felt. Right at that time, a loud bang was evident and the cockpit was immediately depressurised. When looking around the cockpit the pilot did not see the surprised face of his Bombardier/Navigator but his legs! The BN was partly ejected, through the still closed canopy!
LT Gallagher's upper body and arm are seen above the canopy as the A-6 comes in for an emergency landing
Immediately the throttles were put in idle and the speed brake extended and the speed dropped to 200 knots. and the IFF was selected for an emergency. Mayday was declared. The speed dropped to ~160 knots, and when the pilot looked to his right the BN was kicking his legs around, while the rest of his body flapped around in the 160 knots wind. When lining up with the ship, about 6 miles behind, the pilot looked at his BN, he stopped kicking his legs and his face had turned a pale grey. The ship turned into the wind and the pilot touched down in front of the #1 arresting wire and slammed the throttles back to idle. They made it back to the carrier.
LT Keith Gallagher is seen above the canopy as the A-6 aircraft touches down on the deck of the Lincoln.
Note that LT Gallagher's parachute has deployed and is wrapped around the tail of the aircraft.
Engines were switched off and the BN was removed from the aircraft, still alive. The injuries sustained by the BN was mainly in his shoulder and arms, he made a full recovery and returned to flying duties 6 months after the incident.
This short summary is based on the details provided by the pilot and BN of the incident aircraft, the pilot, Lt. Mark Baden and the BN Lt. Keith Gallagher. These details can be found on the website from Lt. Keith Gallagher, by clicking here. Besides an extensive description of the event from the views of both gentlemen also original audio fragments from the event are available on this website