The two-seater EA-18G Growler electronic attack jet was cruising at 7,900 meters, just 90 kilometers from Seattle, on a routine flight from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station to China Lake, California, when the aircraft's environmental control systems (ECS) suddenly failed, according to the Defense News report.
As a result, the temperature in the cockpit fell to minus 30 degrees and filled up with fog, covering the instrument panel of the aircraft and windows with a thin layer of ice, rendering the pilots almost completely blind as they could not read their gauges, compass or see outside the plane.
The pilot and electronic warfare officer had to use a Garmin smartwatch to keep track of their heading and altitude and rely on instructions from air traffic controllers to land the plane.
The incident occurred on January 29, with Defense News also reporting that the crew suffered "severe blistering and burns on hands," citing a Navy internal report and quoting US Naval Air Forces spokesman Cmdr. Ron Flanders.
"The mishap is under investigation. […] The aircrew was treated upon landing; one of the aircrews is already back in a flight status; the other is not yet back in a flight status but is expected to make a complete recovery," the commander said.