Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot Capt. Taylor Bye was awarded the Air Combat Command Airmanship Award for safely belly-landing her aircraft without a canopy or functioning landing gear in 2020. Serving with the 75th Fighter Squadron, Bye was able to land the stricken attack aircraft with immense skill, showing her abilities as a US Air Force pilot.
Overview of Taylor Bye’s incredible landing
Taylor Bye managed to land her A-10C after it suffered a “catastrophic” failure, according to the Air Force. This was the result of a malfunction with the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger over the Grand Bay Range at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The issue caused the attack aircraft’s cockpit canopy to detach, and caused damage to the landing gear systems.
Thanks to Bye’s skill, she safely land the malfunctioning aircraft, saying of the incident, “My initial reaction was to climb away from the ground and then look at my engines. The amazing thing about the A-10 is even though all these things happened, I had two perfectly working engines and hydraulic systems.”
Teamwork helped save the day
Taylor Bye was the flight leader on the day of the incident, accompanied by her wingman, Maj. Jack Ingber. Following the malfunction, Ingber visually inspected her A-10C to help establish what had gone wrong.
“I slowed down the aircraft and that’s when (Ingber) looked over my jet,” Bye explained. “The trust in this community and the Air Force in general, but specifically this fighter squadron, is huge because I’m completely relying on him to let me know what’s going on so I can take the proper action and get both him and I back on the ground safely.”
“When anything (unusual) happens, it’s apparent and very easy to spot it and fix it,” said Ingber. “It’s my primary job to think of everything that (Bye) is not because she has a massive handful of an airplane that is falling apart.”
Once the two had seen the extent of the issues, it was time for Bye to perform a belly-landing with the 20-ton aircraft. To stay out of the 350 MPH winds rushing over the cockpit, Bye lowered her seat, although this made it hard for her to see where she was going.
“I guess I was nervous the whole time, but I didn’t have time to think about being nervous,” the pilot said. “My job was to take care of myself and to take care of the jet.” Thankfully, she touched the A-10C down safely and walked away unharmed.
The commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Lt. Col. Stephen Joca, said following the incident that “what’s most important is preventing total loss of the A-10 or even worse, her life,” adding that “there are some steps that were covered in the checklist – the rest was just superb airmanship and decision making.”
The Republic Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II’s famous ruggedness
The A-10 has become famous over its service life for its incredible durability and reliability. However, even the attack aircraft isn’t totally safe from malfunctions. A similar incident occurred in 2017, with Maj. Brett DeVries of the 107th Fighter Squadron out of Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan when his A-10 suffered a failure with its GAU-8 Avenger. Similar to Bye’s case, this blew off the cockpit canopy and rendered the landing gear inoperable.
Like Bye, DeVries performed a belly-landing and walked away unharmed.
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As “she managed to skillfully and safely land her A-10 with minimal damage,” despite the hazardous situation she found herself in, Taylor Bye was awarded the Air Combat Command Airmanship Award.