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USAF Releases Thunderbirds June Dayton F-16D Accident Reports

Air Combat Command Released The Accident Investigation Results From the June F-16D Mishap in Dayton, Ohio

Screen capture from Fox News report.

UPDATED as of Nov 4, 2017 at 8:15PM PT to include a link to the full released accident investigation.

On Friday June 23rd 2017 A United States Air Force (USAF) General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon belonging to the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron (USAFADS- the Thunderbirds) was involved in a mishap at Dayton International Airport (KDAY) in Ohio. The aircraft ended up inverted on the ground in a grassy overrun after failing to stop while landing on a rain-slick runway. The USAFADS was in town to perform two shows at the nearby National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB).

Air Force Captain and Thunderbird 8 Erik Gonsalves was flying the jet and Thunderbirds maintainer Technical Sergeant Kenneth Cordova was the passenger.

Official US Air Force Photograph

In typical and expected Air Force understatement, the accident report was released on Friday November 3rd 2017. In short, the cause of the mishap was “Upon landing, the pilot was unable to stop the aircraft on the prepared surface. As a result, the aircraft departed the runway and overturned in the grass. The accident investigation board concluded contributing factors to the accident included: environmental conditions affecting vision, misperception of changing environment, and failure to follow procedures.”

The pilot was a current and qualified USAFADS F-16 pilot with 1,861 flight hours as of the time of the mishap. The mishap resulted in the total loss of the $29 million F-16D jet and injuries to the pilot. The passenger was uninjured. Here’s a link to the USAF News Release.

Official US Air Force Photograph

According to the Air Force Times, the pilot was on his second approach.  During the first approach, the rain had obscured the windscreen, rendering the HUD unusable. This problem occasionally occurs on the F-16. Due to a dead spot in the airflow around the cockpit, water can pool on the windscreen during heavy precipitation. On the second approach, the pilot relied on his instrument panel alone since his HUD was unusable due to the limiting forward visibility. The pilot landed over 40 knots fast, landed long, was slow to reduce the throttle after touchdown, and utilized incorrect procedures to stop on a wet runway. He applied forward stick pressure instead of back pressure, reducing braking effectiveness. Captain Gonsalves remains with the USAFADS but has not returned to the cockpit.

The full report was released and posted by Air Force Magazine.

Official US Air Force Photograph

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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