Captain Taylor Bye kept his cool as his A-10C Thunderbolt II crashed in mid-air during a routine sortie two years ago in Georgia, making a successful ‘wheels up’ belly landing without cockpit canopy as high winds blew in his face.
In recognition of the achievement, Bye received the 2020 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy on Wednesday at a ceremony at the Pentagon, becoming the first female recipient of the award since its inception in 1957, the Air Force said in a statement Thursday.
“The day she landed with 66% of her landing gear and the wind in her hair is a day she will never forget,” the Army Chief of Staff said. air, General CQ Brown Jr., in his presentation of the award, applauding Bye’s “exemplary performance.” .”
Named for 1st Lt. Koren Kolligian Jr., an Air Force pilot reported missing when his plane went missing off the California coast in 1955, the trophy honors aircrew who avoid or minimize the severity of injury or property damage in a plane crash, according to the Air Force.
Bye’s captain at the time of the crash noted the rarity of the plane failure she suffered, according to the Air Force. This meant there was no comprehensive emergency checklist to follow.
Bye’s A-10 began to dismantle as she prepared for a strafing run during an April 2020 training mission over Georgia at Moody Air Force Base’s Grand Bay Range, according to the service.
His repeated attempts to fire the plane’s Gatling gun ended in serious failure, the Air Force said in a statement last year. Its landing gear retracted, panels flew off and its canopy jettisoned. Both engines and the jet’s hydraulic systems continued to operate.
“We don’t necessarily train for this, but the second-to-second decision I made was my body’s natural response,” Bye said in the Air Force statement.
She said that when her canopy took off, her instinct was to “survive,” according to the statement. She pushed the Warthog’s throttles all the way up, pitched the plane up and lowered her seat to reduce the blast of the wind. The lowered seat made it difficult to see the track.
“I thought, ‘Where’s the ground, where’s the ground?’ I was holding my breath at the time,” Bye said in a statement last year.
She escaped the accident without injury. The Air Force investigation report into the cause of the crash was not available Friday.
The 2019 and 2020 award ceremonies have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019 ceremony took place in December 2021.
At the ceremony, Bye thanked his wingman, Major Jack Ingber, also a Moody A-10 pilot, for his assistance during the emergency. He helped her visually assess the damage to the plane as she headed for landing.
“This whole experience has challenged me in so many ways, but being recognized with this honor is something I will never forget,” Bye said at the ceremony, according to the Air Force.