March 26, 1999 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The US Air Force suspended all F-16 fighter flights at Luke Air Force Base -- its largest training area for the jets -- after one of the planes crashed in the desert Friday. It was the fifth such accident at Luke since October.
USAF F-16C block 42 #88-0490 from the 312th FS is seen in 1992. This aircraft crashed on March 26th, 1999 after an engine failure. [Ed Groenendijk collection]
Student pilot Capt. Michael G. Rider, 27, ejected safely before his jet #88-0490
slammed into the desert about 22 miles southwest of the training base near Phoenix.
Approximately 200 F-16s will be inspected before they are cleared to fly again. Rider had been airborne for 20 minutes when he developed engine problems and turned back toward Luke. Witnesses said the plane was on fire. The last three F-16 crashes were also engine-related. Pilots fly more than 100, 000 sorties a year out of Luke.