Attitude Gyro Failure Caused QF-4E Crash

Failure of the pitch and roll attitude gyro caused the crash of a QF-4E Phantom II serving as an unmanned aerial target on Feb. 7, according to an Air Combat Command accident investigation report, released July 22. The Phantom was on final approach to land at Holloman AFB, N.M., when it began to pitch up and down rapidly. Although the pilot in the ground-control station performed the proper emergency checklist procedures, the oscillations continued until the aircraft impacted the ground about five miles southwest of the air base. The report said failure of the gyro, which provides information on the aircraft’s attitude in flight, fed erroneous inputs into the Phantom’s automatic flight control computer resulting in the rapid attitude changes. The QF-4E, assigned to Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron based at Tyndall AFB, Fla., was destroyed with an estimated loss of $4.9 million. There was no damage to private property. The aircraft was serving as a full-scale target for realistic air-to-air weapon systems development, testing, and evaluation. The accident board president found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the gyro failure caused the mishap. (ACC release.)