US Air Force pilot thanks British man who guaranteed him a happy landing


LONDON – U.S. Air Force Maj. Grant Thompson thanked a British photographer in the best way he knew – by ripping the flight patch from his shoulder and handing it to the man whose action fast last week allowed it to land safely after an engine in its The F-15E Strike Eagle malfunctioned.

Ian Simpson was standing outside the fence at a Royal Air Force base in eastern England taking pictures of fighter jets taking off when he spotted a shower of sparks bursting from the back of an airplane. He and a group of aviation enthusiasts listening to the flight control traffic realized that the pilot didn’t seem to know there was a problem with the plane.

So Simpson, who worked in the aviation industry, searched for RAF Lakenheath’s phone number on Google and persuaded a switchboard operator to put it in touch with air operations at the base, which is home to 48 Wing. Air Force fighter aircraft.

“I said, ‘Look, something’s wrong with the plane, definitely. We have a lot of pictures of sparks coming out of the back, “Simpson, 56, told The Associated Press.

Word has passed to the pilot. Asked to take a look, his winger confirmed that one of the engines had been damaged, the base said. The pilot returned to base, “just to be safe.”

“For most of us here, this was a very rare event that we have not personally witnessed,” the air base said in a statement. “It’s wonderful to know that the Liberty Wing has such a good partnership with the local community – and the courage Ian has shown was second to none.”

Simpson said he was prompted by the death of another young American pilot whose plane crashed into the North Sea on June 15, 2020.

“I thought someone should call,” he said. “I didn’t want something like this to happen to another family.”

Thompson thanked Simpson on Wednesday by giving Simpson a cap and badges, then adding the shoulder patch to it for good measure.

“It was a nice touch,” Simpson said.

The base noted Simpson’s actions in a Facebook post that garnered attention, especially from Americans grateful for his help.

“For me, the most humiliating thing was the families of the military who thanked me for doing what I did,” he said. “I didn’t expect to receive so many thanks.”

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