Pilot Error Doomed F-16D

A decision-making error by an instructor pilot after several low-altitude bird strikes led to the crash of an F-16D on June 26 just west of Luke AFB, Ariz., announced Air Education and Training Command. Both the instructor and student pilot were able to eject safely, suffering only minor injuries, according to the command’s Oct. 28 release, which summarizes the findings of the command’s accident investigation board report. The pilots, assigned to Luke’s 309th Fighter Squadron, were on a training mission to practice touch-and-go landings when the F-16D’s engine ingested several birds shortly after takeoff, resulting in degraded engine performance, according to the release. The instructor pilot “erroneously elect[ed] to make an immediate turn that robbed the aircraft of altitude and airspeed, rather than climbing straight ahead to achieve minimum maneuvering speed for aircraft recovery,” states the release, citing the report. There was limited damage to civilian property; total costs from the loss of the F-16D and the property damage are approximately $22 million, states the release.