Pilots’ Errors Caused F-16 Collision at Nellis

Mistakes by a pair of pilots caused their F-16s to collide after landing on the runway at Nellis AFB, Nev., in August 2015, Air Combat Command investigators found. The collision almost killed one pilot and caused nearly $70 million in damages, according to the accident investigation report released Monday. The pilots were both assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command’s 301st Fighter Wing at NAS Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, and were participating in exercise Red Flag 15-4 at the time of the collision. After the first pilot landed his fighter normally, he did not move to the exit side of the runway, according to the report. While preparing to land, the second pilot did not open his speedbrakes. He landed with the proper spacing, but closed on the other F-16 because “he landed too fast, touched down long, and had the engine above idle power,” according to the report. After noticing the first aircraft on the hot side of the runway, he applied heavy braking pressure and directed his fellow pilot to clear right. The unaware pilot of the first aircraft misunderstood the call and continued to drift left, but braked and turned hard right after hearing a second command. At the same time, the second pilot abandoned normal runway deconfliction and pulled hard right in an attempt to pass on that side. Instead, the aircraft collided. The impact forced both aircraft off the runway, fired the second pilot’s ejection seat, and pinned him under the other F-16’s wing, causing “life threatening blunt force, burn, and crush-type injuries.” First responders were on the scene in 68 seconds, ultimately helping save the pilot’s life. The second pilot was not injured. One aircraft was considered a total loss and the repair costs to the other aircraft are estimated at $5.4 m?illion, according to the report.