âThis plane took off and just before it got to usâ¦ a lot of flames and sparks started coming out the back,â Simpson told CNN.
Simpson, who previously worked for Boeing in the design of air traffic control procedures, listened to radio communications between the pilot, Major Grant Thompson and the base to see if any action would be taken, but to his surprise no one from other did not seem to have noticed.
When he heard the plane was ready to refuel over the North Sea, Simpson realized the pilot was unaware of possible issues with his plane.
“I suddenly realized that they had no idea what was going on,” said the 56-year-old plane observer. “So at that point, I called the base, Google searching for the phone number.”
The switchboard operator put him in touch with the air operations center, which then contacted air traffic control and the pilot. After Thompson asked his winger to confirm the damage to the right engine of his F15-E Strike Eagle, the pilot returned to base safely.
Simpson may not think much of his actions, but the 48th Fighter Wing personnel praised his quick wit.
“Ian’s courage was second to none,” said Captain Marie Ortiz, head of media operations for the 48th Fighter Wing, which includes the 492nd Fighter Squadron in Thompson. âThis simple phone call says a lot about our region and the relationship. “
Ortiz said an incident like this was “a very rare occurrence” and Simpson said he had never seen anything like it in 50 years monitoring planes.
âI’ve seen a few incidents where something doesn’t workâ¦ but when parts of the plane disintegrate in a shower of sparks, then it’s a little different,â he said. âWhen you’ve been on planes long enough, you know when something’s wrong. ”