An Air Force investigation of an August midair collision of two F-16s faults one of the pilots. (Staff Sgt. Cherie Thurlby/Air Force)
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An Air Force investigation released Wednesday blames an F-16 pilot for a midair collision with another F-16 in August near the Virginia coast.
The two F-16s from the 121st Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Md., were flying night tactical air-intercept training.
The pilot of the first aircraft attempted to approach the second F-16 using his sight, instead of using readings on his heads-up display in the cockpit. As the planes neared each other, the first pilot did not follow the range, airspeed and closure rates displayed to him and missed a “break-X” notification, telling him to move away from the other aircraft, according to the investigation.
Three seconds later, the planes collided.
The pilot of the second F-16 was forced to eject. He was recovered in the ocean near Chincoteague, Va., with injuries that were not life-threatening. His aircraft was destroyed.
The first pilot was able to fly back to Andrews and land safely. The total cost of the mishap, including the destroyed F-16 and damage to the second jet, was placed at $23 million.
The Accident Investigation Board president found that the crash was caused by the failure of the first aircraft to maintain flight deconfliction and safe operations because of misperception of operational conditions, channelized attention and task misprioritization.
Additionally, the board found that human errors by the first pilot contributed to the crash: overconfidence, inadequate crew rest, fatigue and a lack of discipline.