Two pilots flying out of the Tel Nof Airbase near Rehovot, Israel on Jan. 2 found themselves in a bit of a bind when their canopy flew off at 30,000 feet, exposing them to nearly -50º Fahrenheit weather and loud and violent winds, the Times of Israel writes. Here’s an audio recording of that harrowing incident.
Apparently the pilots had to yell commands to one another to communicate, but they eventually managed to land at Nevatim Airbase near Be’er Sheva in the Negev desert. Here’s a recording released by the Israeli military that shows what this whole ordeal sounded like:
The video begins with someone asking “What height is it going to stay in,” at which you can hear a loud noise that is apparently the canopy detaching, and then “Captain Y.” (or “Captain Yod”) letting the ground controller know that he and his co-pilot were headed to a nearby base to land sans canopy.
The plane navigator, Lieutenant R. (or Lieutenant Resh) then asks Captain Y. if he’s okay, and then confirms that he himself is okay, after which he begins attempting to slow the machine to 200 knots. That’s when Captain Y. tells the tower that his jet is headed in for landing. From the Times of Israel:
“We’re landing without a canopy, do you copy?” he asks.
Turning back to his navigator, Yod asks, “Resh, do you hear me?”
Clearly shaken, Resh responds: “Are you okay?”
Whether there was an issue with the ejection system (which releases the canopy first) or the canopy latches is unclear. Apparently the air force contacted Boeing, the company that made the plane, to help understand what went wrong, and Israel Air Force commander major general Amikam Norki put a halt to F-15 training until the investigation is complete.
F-15s, the news site mentions, entered the Israeli air force in the 1970s and 1990s, so they’re not exactly new, though according to a senior officer, only three such incidents involving F-15 canopies coming off have been recorded in the world. That officer says that makes such an incident “rare,” but in any case, I’d say any more than one incident like is less than optimal.