Engine compressor stall and failure to apply appropriate responsive measures were found to be the cause of a deadly accident involving a T-38C Talon jet trainer, occurring Nov. 13, 2018 at Laughlin Air Force Base, according to documents by Air Education and Training Command released Monday.
A release states Capt. John Graziano, an instructor pilot who lost his life during the incident, and instructor pilot Capt. Mark Palyok, were conducting a routine instructor development training sortie to regain rear cockpit night landing currency for Palyok, while Graziano was the pilot in command.
“Palyok was able to eject from the T-38C Talon and sustained minor injuries, while the Graziano ejection was interrupted when the aircraft impacted the ground,” the release states.
“The cause of the mishap was found to be a combination of an engine compressor stall and failure to apply the throttle and flight control inputs required by emergency checklists following the loss of engine thrust on takeoff.”
Graziano, 28, was an instructor pilot from the 87th Flying Training Squadron at Laughlin AFB.
He was from Elkridge, Maryland, and is survived by his mother, father, sisters and brother.
The report of the Accident Investigation Board led by Brig. Gen. James R. Sears, Jr., states that during the night of the incident, at approximately 7:24 p.m., the T-38C Talon impacted the ground fatally injuring Graziano during an ejection attempt.
During the takeoff portion of Palyok’s fifth practice touch-and-go landing at Laughlin AFB, as Palyok advanced the throttles for takeoff, the mishap crew heard a loud buzz, later determined to indicate a compressor stall in the right engine.
Graziano, aircraft commander, took control of the aircraft and continued the takeoff.
Graziano did not select maximum afterburner as the aircraft rolled, yawed, and drifted to the right of the runway, failing to accelerate appreciably.
While continuing the takeoff, Graziano failed to recognize aural and visual aerodynamic stall warnings, and lost situational awareness regarding the aircraft’s ground track and low height above the ground.
Graziano regained awareness when the aircraft was close enough to the terrain to illuminate the ground approximately one second before the aircraft touched down off the runway surface. Graziano initiated a climb approximately three seconds later and commanded ejection. The crew initiated ejection at approximately 147 knots indicated airspeed, 45 degrees of right bank, with approximately 500 feet per minute descent rate.
The aircraft impacted the ground approximately 350 feet right of the paved runway surface. Palyok successfully completed the ejection with minor injuries. Graziano was fatally injured when the aircraft impacted the ground before Graziano’s ejection seat completed the ejection sequence.
The Accident Investigation Board president found, by a preponderance of evidence, the cause of the mishap was the combination of: (a) an engine compressor stall during a critical phase of flight and (b) Graziano’s failure to apply necessary throttle and flight control inputs following a loss of thrust on takeoff.
Additionally, the board president found by a preponderance of evidence that each of the following factors substantially contributed to the mishap: (a) the low illumination the night of the mishap and (b) Graziano’s misperception of the rapidly evolving emergency after taking control of the aircraft.