When Things Went Horribly Wrong, This Pilot Met The Challenge

It was supposed to be a routine A-10 Thunderbolt II combat training flight. Capt. Taylor Bye had done these many times before, and there was no reason to think that this flight would be any different.

The Scottish poet Robert Burns, in his poem “To A Mouse,” tells about the diligence of a fieldmouse who laboriously and skillfully builds its home in a fallow field, only to have it destroyed in an instant by a farmer’s plow. Toward the end of the poem, he gives us the famous line, “All the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry” (an English translation of his original Scots dialect). Well, haven’t we all had some minor or major experience of that little aphorism’s wisdom in our lives on occasion? In this case, Capt. Bye’s experience could have been truly tragic, but because of her knowledge of the plane and her skill, she was able to avoid a potential tragedy and, in doing so, was recognized by the Air Force for her courage and skill.

Photo: DVIDS/Airman 1st Class Rachel Perkinson

The “best laid plan” that day in April of 2020 was to participate in what should have been a typical combat training flight, but the enexpected and unplanned came to play with her and her plane, big time.

Stuff started to “go awry” when she performed a maneuver to begin a straffing run at the firing range near Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Her 30mm Gatling Gun – you know, the one that produces that distinctive “brrrrrrrt” sound when it fires – malfunctioned. Something went wrong so she pulled up to a higher altitude to see if she could figure out the problem. Something about that misfiring effected two other very important components of her A-10 as well.

Bye’s wingman, Maj. Jack Ingber, did what he was supposed to do in this kind of situation; he maneuvered his A-10 under Bye’s plane and inspected it for damage in order to help advise her.

Photo: DVIDS/Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers

At some point, Capt. Bye’s cockpit canopy came apart and detached, and she had to shift her seat downward to get as much out of the 350-mph winds rushing over her aircraft as possible. This put her low enough to get out of the wind, but it made it more difficult to see the ground through her windshield. Oh, and then there was the equally troubling reality that her landing gear would not deploy. She would have to not only fly her damaged jet but also crash-land it in a way that would both save her own life and cause as little damage to the plane as possible.

Long story short, with Maj. Ingber functioning as her chase plane, Capt. Bye was able to bring the plane back to Moody AFB and crash-land it perfectly on the runway. She said in an interview with Rachel S. Cohen for the Air Force Times, “I thought, ‘Where is the ground, where is the ground?’ I was holding my breath at that point. I guess I was nervous the whole time, but I didn’t have time to think about being nervous. My job was to take care of myself and to take care of the jet.”

Photo: DVIDS/Airman 1st Class Rachel Perkinson

For her actions that day, Capt. Taylor Bye was awarded the Air Combat Airmanship Award at Moody AFB on May 5, 2021.

We congratulate Capt. Bye on receiving this prestigious award. When “all of the best laid plans” of that day “went awry,” she did everything she needed to do to successfully bring herself and that A-10 Thunderbolt II home. Congratulations, Capt. Bye.

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