NORFOLK, Va. — A series of pilot errors resulted in a fighter jet crashing in a desolate area of California during a December training mission, according to an Air Force report released Tuesday.
The F-16C Fighting Falcon crashed on government land about 84 nautical miles east of Fresno, Calif. on the afternoon of Dec. 27. The aircraft belonged to the 144th Fighter Wing stationed at Fresno Air National Guard Base.
The pilot safely ejected with minor injuries, but the plane was destroyed on impact. The Air Force values the jet at $21.4 million.
The Air Force has not released the pilot's name, but said the pilot had more than 2,000 flight hours in an F-16 and was part of the 194th Fighter Squadron. The squadron's primary mission is to perform homeland defense throughout the Southwest and be prepared to deploy around the world, if needed.
The report says there were three primary factors that contributed to the crash: complacency throughout the entire flight; pressing the equipment beyond reasonable limits; and procedural error in the last few minutes of flight. An analysis of flight data records indicated there was no evidence of any flight control, electrical, or hydraulic malfunctions that would have contributed to the crash, according to the report.
Among other things, it says the pilot failed to recover the aircraft from a high pitch, low airspeed state in response to a low-speed warning tone. That resulted in an inverted deep stall.
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