A USMC TAV-8B Harrier from VMAT-203 suffered a landing gear malfunction when trying to return to MCAS Cherry Point. The Marine aviator realizing his gear failed to extend naturally referred to SOP that dictated activating the backup safety nitrogen bottle to blow the gear down.
Unfortunately for the pilot and plane, when communicating the issue over the radio, a higher ranking officer ordered him not to follow standard operating procedures, and instead had a stack of strapped mattresses placed in the centre of the runway.
Much to the surprise of the Officer that devised the imaginative contingency plan...when the 23,000lb fighter jet blowing down over 20,000 pounds of vectored thrust from its Pegasus engines settled down on its bed, the landing mattresses immediately responded with a critical un-contained failure and exploded in a shower of metal springs, fabric and coils that were quickly ingested through the spinning engine turbine blades.
Although the aircraft was extensively damaged, the pilot was able to climb out of bed without injury.
When ground crews jacked up the Harrier Jump Jet, they we able to blow the gear down with no problems. This is when the story takes an even stranger turn. Once the jet was placed in the hangar, relatively undamaged structurally speaking, an EZ-go golf cart came flying into the hangar and smashed directly into the jet, causing some D-level repair damage. It turns out that the cart operator was huffing keyboard cleaner shortly before making his parts run in the EZ-go. He got dizzy, lost consciousness and the cart, now driverless, turned directly into the hangar at full speed through a gap in the hangar doors and smashed into the parked Jump Jet.
We hope you enjoyed another Sierra Hotel Aeronautics moment of aviation shame.
Sleep tight and don't let the Jump Jets Bite!