Decommissioned US Navy Fighter Jets Find New Life as Crash Training Props

f-18-hornet-training-airframe (Image: US Navy, public domain)

When disaster strikes in the world of aviation, the ability of emergency services to act quickly is paramount in the fight to save life and limb. And in an environment as hazardous as the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, effective training is especially important.


f-18-hornet-training-aircraft-2 (Images: US Navy (top, bottom), public domain)

On land and at sea, rescuers practice constantly to keep their skills finely tuned, poised to deal with damaged jets and inevitable mishaps. But operational fleet aircraft are expensive assets, so emergency crews use training airframes – usually in the form of decommissioned, early models of the same aircraft.

f-18-hornet-training-aircraft-3 (Image: US Navy, public domain)

Tucked away in a corner of the hangar deck until called upon, these gaunt, anemic shells of fighter aircraft, their engines, cockpit instruments and avionics systems stripped out, become ideal props for all manner of training scenarios, from fire and pilot evacuation to battle damage repair.

F-14-Tomcat-training-aircraft (Image: US Navy, public domain)

Above, a crash and salvage team aboard aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) use a mobile crane known as ‘Tilly’ to steady a retired F-14A Tomcat ground instructional airframe. This drill was carried out at Mayport, Florida, in 2003.

f-18-hornet-training-aircraft (Image: US Navy, public domain)

Meanwhile, the retired F/A-18 Hornet above is seen during an exercise aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in October 2005. Hanging beneath Tilly, the decommissioned jet makes an ideal training aid for the US Navy’s operational fleet of newer F/A-18C model jets.


f-18-hornet-training-airframe-3 (Images: US Navy (top, bottom), public domain)

Finally, an ageing Hornet is prepared for a crash landing simulation on the deck of USS Harry S. Truman. The gutted airframe, seen here in 2005, is actually the second YF-18A prototype constructed, serial number 160776. It was parked on a disused runway at Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field in Chesapeake, VA (viewable on Google Earth) by 2010 and remained there as of 2011. If you can verify whether this aircraft is still at Fentress today, please leave us a comment below! Read more about it here.

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