Verdict, Controlled Flight Into Terrain

The F-16 pilot killed during an Operation Inherent Resolve sortie last December violated the safe minimum altitude for landing approach, was briefly disoriented, and flew into the ground, according to Air Combat Command. The investigation board president determined “by clear and convincing evidence that the cause of the mishap was the mishap pilot’s unrecognized descent into the ground,” according to the accident report, released on July 13. The F-16, which was deployed to an undisclosed base in the Middle East, was returning from an abortive sortie with his wingman, who had suffered a minor mechanical malfunction, Dec. 1, 2014, when he crashed 9.5 nautical miles short of the runway. The board determined the pilot “intentionally flew below” the minimum safe altitude, beginning his landing approach “against instrument procedures.” This significantly reduced his reaction time, contributing to the accident. The aircraft was assigned to the 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed from Shaw AFB, S.C., at the time of the accident. Destruction of the aircraft and its weapons is estimated at a $30.8-?million loss, according to the report.