When An Israeli Air Force F-15 Landed Safely With Only One Wing

F-15 By Israel Defense Forces - CC BY-SA 2.0
F-15 By Israel Defense Forces - CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1983, on the 1st May, in the middle of an air combat session by the Israeli Air Force taking place in the Negev, an F-15D collided in the air with an A-4 Skyhawk. The Skyhawk pilot managed to eject, and the aircraft disintegrated. The F-15’s right wing was sheared from its body only 2 feet from the main fuselage.

The crew was unaware of this damage as leaking fuel and other vapors that occurred along the wing prevented them from seeing what exactly had happened. The men were the Ziv Nedivi (pilot) and Yehoar Gal (navigator).

Following the collision, the F-15 began to spin, and it seemed to be uncontrollable. The pilot made the decision to try to recover and used the afterburner to gain speed; this allowed him to get back control of the craft. He prevented the engines from stalling and managed to keep control due to the lift that was created by the large surface area of the stabilators, fuselage and what was left of the wings.

The aircraft was diverted to Ramon’s airbase where it landed at two times the normal landing speed and its tailhook was ripped off the craft completely while taking part in this landing. The pilot finally managed to bring the craft to a full stop approx 20 feet from the final end of the runway in question.

The F-16, Markia Schakim, was moved, by road, to a specialist maintenance unit in Tel Nof and it was subsequently repaired. This particular plane had already downed four enemy aircraft while in the Lebanon War in 1982, and once repaired claimed a shared kill of a MiG-23 (Syrian) in 1985 on 19th November.

Screenshot from the video

The pilot described that event as follows:

“At some point I collided with one of the Skyhawks, at first, I didn’t realize it. I felt a big strike, and I thought we passed through the jet stream of one of the other aircraft. Before I could react, I saw the big fireball created by the explosion of the Skyhawk.

The radio started to deliver calls saying that the Skyhawk pilot had ejected, and I understood that the fireball was the Skyhawk, that exploded, and the pilot was ejected automatically.

There was a tremendous fuel stream going out of my wing, and I understood it was badly damaged. The aircraft flew without control in a strange spiral. I reconnected the electric control to the control surfaces, and slowly gained control of the aircraft until I was straight and level again. It was clear to me that I had to eject. When I gained control I said: “Hey, wait, don’t eject yet!” No warning light was on, and the navigation computer worked as usual; (I just needed a warning light in my panel to indicate that I missed a wing…).” My instructor pilot ordered me to eject.

“The wing is a fuel tank, and the fuel indicator showed 0.000, so I assumed that the jet stream sucked all the fuel out of the other tanks. However, I remembered that the valves operate only in one direction so that I might have enough fuel to get to the nearest airfield and land. I worked like a machine, wasn’t scared and didn’t worry.

All I knew was as long as the sucker flies, I’m gonna stay inside. I started to decrease the airspeed, but at that point, one wing was not enough. So I went into a spin down and to the right. A second before I decided to eject, I pushed the throttle and lit the afterburner. I gained speed and thus got control of the aircraft again.

Next thing I did was lower the arresting hook. A few seconds later I touched the runway at 260 knots, about twice the recommended speed, and called the tower to erect the emergency recovery net.

The hook was torn away from the fuselage because of the high speed, but I managed to stop 10 meters before the net. I turned back to shake the hand of my instructor, who had urged me to eject, and then I saw it for the first time – no wing!”

It was later claimed that the student was demoted for not obeying his instructor but then promoted for managing to save the aircraft.


Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.

@joris1944 facebook.com/joris.nieuwint