Fighter Pilot Tailed a Civilian Plane Guilty of Destroying F-16
- A fighter pilot totaled an Oklahoma Air National Guard F-16C jet in March 2022.
- The unfortunate incident occurred during an interception of a civilian plane.
- Investigators concluded the pilot was responsible for wrecking the $27 million jet.
- The Air Force has stated that the airman violated several rules while training.
In March 2022, an Oklahoma Air National Guard crashed an F-16C during a routine exercise. According to the report, a defense training program turned into an unplanned interception of a civilian plane. Unfortunately, the pilot ended up destroying the aircraft during the drill.
The unnamed airman and an F-16 instructor pilot were flying over Louisiana before the tragic incident. Investigators believe that the instructor could have easily averted the loss had he followed standard procedures.
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Additionally, the U.S. Air Force admitted that the pilot violated a number of training rules. Once the pilot ejected the F-16C, the jet totaled on impact. The mistake put a dent of $27 million in the Air Force’s budget.
How did it happen?
Whenever an unauthorized aircraft flies near American airspace, airmen respond immediately. This patrol crew serves to prevent incidents like the 9/11. On 23rd March, Air Force Officers took off to practice a two-jet homeland defense mission.
In military jargon, the exercise is known as the “aerospace control alert.”
Initially, the lead pilot pretended to be an unfamiliar aircraft so the wingman in question could practice escorting the plane. The training session consisted of multiple tasks including ‘low/slow intercepts’, defecting foreign military aircraft, and air-to-air refueling.
The first trial was uneventful. However, the seemingly routine exercise took an unexpected turn.
The F-16 pilot discovered a general aviation aircraft flying at a height of 1,700 feet. The plane flew in a holding pattern around Beauregard Regional Airport in Western Louisiana.
Trying to make the best of the situation, the instructor suggested intercepting the plane. The intent behind the interception was to help the pair practice identifying a low, slow-moving aircraft. However, the airmen failed to inform the air traffic control about their plan.
The lead pilot read the incoming plane’s tail number but then left to refuel. Meanwhile, the other airman dipped below the minimum speed and height required to fly an F-16C.
“The [F-16] was approximately 300 feet above the [civilian] aircraft … as opposed to the 1,000 feet required when executing an intercept from the side or front,” the damage report stated.
The airman later decided to join his flight lead for refueling but hit the wrong switch as he attempted to climb. As a result, he felt an unexpected shudder – a normal reaction – that led the newbie to believe that the jet was unsafe.
The airman ejected and landed in the woods where he was subsequently rescued by nearby military units. On the other hand, the F-16 met its fate.
Investigators mentioned that bailing out was a huge mistake. The report stated that the aircraft was perfectly flyable before the pilot decided to eject.
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According to the investigators, “A noticeable shudder and movement of the aircraft indicated the flight control responding properly. Therefore, the aircraft was not out of control and could have recovered.”
“[Instructor pilot] should have recognized they were executing an intercept against a non-participating, uncoordinated aircraft. While simultaneously accomplishing a challenging mission that was not their mission for that day.”
The U.S. Air Force has been using F-16s since the 1980s. As of now, around 700 F-16s remain in the inventory. On average, three fighting jets crash annually in the United States. However, in 2022 six F-16s were involved in flight accidents.
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