A photographer who captured images of sparks coming out of an American F-15E Strike Eagle jet as it was taking off is being credited with delivering a warning that allowed the pilot to return and land safely.
The AP documented the incident that happened at a Royal Air Force base in England, where U.S. Air Force Maj. Grant Thompson successfully returned, to later thank photographer Ian Simpson by taking a patch from the shoulder of his uniform and handing it to him.
Simpson was outside the fence of the base, snapping images, when the fighter craft took off unleashing a shower of sparks.
Simpson, who has worked in aviation, hunted down the phone number for RAF Lakenheath, home base of the U.S. Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing, and convinced an operator to put him through, the report said.
Simpson told AP he said: “Look, something is wrong with the plane, definitely. We’ve got lots of photographs of sparks coming out the back.”
The warning was relayed to the pilot, and a wingman, checking the situation during flight, responded that there did appear to be damage to an engine.
Thompson returned to the base, which issued a statement: “For most of us here, this was a very rare occurrence that we have not personally witnessed. It’s wonderful to know that the Liberty Wing has such a great partnership with the local community – and the courage that Ian displayed was next to none.”
Thompson later thanked Simpson by giving him a cap and insignia, as well has his flight patch.
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