F-22A March 24, 2009

3263 Aerial image of the crash site. CLUI photo

One of the nation’s most advanced contemporary fighter planes crashed northwest of Harper Dry Lake, nearly hitting the only house for miles in any direction. This test flight was for gathering data for a captive carriage test of an air-to-air missile. The pilot, David Cooley, a Lockheed Martin employee, was pulling high-G maneuvers, and is suspected of experiencing an event known as an almost g-loc, a partial loss of consciousness resulting in a loss of situational awareness. In any event, he was unable to pull out of a dive in time, and the plane headed quickly into the ground. He ejected 1.5 seconds before impact, too late for a parachute to deploy, and was killed.

3264 U.S. Air Force photoLockheed Martin’s F-22A is an advanced tactical fighter jet with stealth characteristics, and a $150 million price tag per unit. The last one rolled out of the factory at the end of 2011, and there are 187 in service now. This was the second crash of an F-22. The Air Force was on scene immediately, and clean-up took three months. The media was kept at least five miles away, and drones monitored the crash site from above. A spray fixative was used to encapsulate hazardous composite fibers. Contaminated soil was removed for disposal and replaced with clean fill, and a contractor was hired to restore the land’s original contours. A 500-foot square of replanted earth clearly indicates the crash site. 

3265 An informal monument to the pilot, David Cooley, killed in the crash, has been placed at the site. CLUI photo