ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Pilot error – “inadvertently turned off the throttle” – caused an F-16 Fighting Falcon jet to crash near Salinas Peak on White Sands Missile Range last November, according to a summary of an Air Force Accident Investigation Board Report released Tuesday.
The unnamed student pilot, who was participating in his second Basic Fighting Maneuvers training flight, successfully ejected from the fighter just 440 feet from the ground and suffered minor injuries, the report states.
The pilot “inadvertently turned off the throttle of the aircraft,” according to an Air Force news release accompanying the report. “This action initiated an engine shutdown by terminating engine ignition and fuel flow. In an attempt to restart the aircraft, the pilot did not follow the appropriate procedures, which interrupted normal engine operation and led to engine stagnation with loss of thrust.”
The crash occurred about 8:45 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2015. The report also faulted the pilot, who was flying lead in a two-aircraft formation, for improperly executing the required checklist procedures in response to the emergency situation, “resulting in a failed attempt to regain normal engine operation before ejection.”
The $25 million aircraft crashed about 25 miles south of Trinity Site – where the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945 – in northwestern Sierra County.
Both the pilot and the single-engine, supersonic multi-role fighter were assigned to the 314th Fighter Squadron, 54th Fighter Group, 56th Fighter Wing, based at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The 314th Fighter Squadron is physically located at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo and is charged with training F-16 pilots.
All flying operations at Holloman were halted immediately after the crash, but resumed after the Thanksgiving holiday, base officials said at the time.