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Plane Spotter Saves RAF Lakenheath Pilot's Life

A United States Air Force pilot has praised a local plane spotter for saving his life.
By News Team
Published on July 25, 2021

Maj. Grant Thompson's F-15 Ian Simpson's photograph of USAF Maj. Grant Thompson's F-15, with sparks and flames coming from the right engine clearly visible

Ian Simpson and USAF Maj. Grant Thompson Maj. Grant Thompson thanks Ian Simpson for "100%" saving his life. PHOTO: CAPT. MARIE ORTIZ, 48TH FW, USAF

A United States Air Force pilot has praised a local plane spotter for saving his life.

Ian Simpson was watching and photographing airplanes flying from RAF Lakenheath on July 13 when he saw an F-15E Strike Eagle taking off with sparks and flames coming out of the engine. He realized this was not normal. In Mr Simpson's words, "It was quite shocking really. You do see flames called an afterburner, which they use to take off, but that is normally turned off as soon as they leave the runway."

Mr Simpson telephoned the base switchboard and was put through to Flight Control, who immediately alerted the pilot, Major Grant Thompson. Maj. Thompson said later that he had had no idea there was a problem with his airplane. The first he knew of the situation was when the base informed him that, as Maj. Thompson said, "A member of the local population had noticed something abnormal on our take-off, which was potentially a nozzle malfunction One of our wingmen looked us over and they noticed there was something wrong with our right engine, a nozzle didn't look quite right, at which point we brought the aircraft back safely." He added that Mr Simpson's quick decision to call the base actions had saved his life "100%" and that "His initiative was awesome."

Maj. Thompson later met Ian Simpson to thank him personally and gave him his unit patch as a memento and a thank-you.

Col. Paul Townsend, vice commander of 48th Fighter Wing, commented. "We at the Liberty Wing appreciate the continuous support from the aviation and local communities surrounding the base. Strong community partnerships and special relationships are essential in our countries’ collective defense, and enable the 48th Fighter Wing to own the skies anytime, anywhere."

Maj. Thompson's jet is part of the 48th Fighter Wing, the only F-15 wing based in Europe. It has been known as "Statue of Liberty Wing" since July 4, 1954 and is the only USAF unit that has both a numerical designation and a name.

Ian Simpson and USAF Maj. Grant Thompson Maj. Thompson gives Ian Simpson his unit patch. PHOTO: CAPT. MARIE ORTIZ, 48TH FW, USAF

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