March 18, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - An Air Force pilot described as highly experienced was killed on Sunday when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed at an air show while thousands of horrified spectators watched.
Major Brison Phillips
The fighter flown by Maj. Brison Phillips
, 35, of Dallas slammed into an empty field several miles north of Naval Air Station Kingsville, where an estimated 15, 000 people saw the aircraft fail to pull up from a maneuver dubbed the "split S".
The two-day air show, which showcased the Navy's Blue Angels high-performance flight team, was immediately canceled as rescue crews scrambled to the crash site.
Phillips, a Persian Gulf War veteran who had logged 2, 300 flight hours in the F-16, had been assigned in October to the 9th Air Force Demonstration Team.
The fighter jet flies over the tarmac moments before crashing as an estimated 15, 000 people watched in horror. Naval Air Station Kingsville is one of the Navy's primary training schools.
Nearly half of the nation's F-16CJs aircraft used to destroy enemy ground anti-aircraft sites are based at Shaw, 45 minutes east of Columbia, S. C.
Phillips had been attempting a split S maneuver, in which the pilot rolls the airplane until it is upside down and then drops in a dive. The maneuver gives jet fighters a quick burst of speed but increases the airplane's turn radius, and requires several thousand feet of altitude.
It was too early to tell whether Phillips had reported a problem with the aircraft during the flight. He had a few more maneuvers left in the performance when the crash occurred at 12:45 p. m.
Phillips, a 1987 graduate of Texas A&M University's ROTC program, had flown in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Northern Watch in Iraq
, and Operation Deny Flight in Bosnia. He also had served in Germany and South Korea
, and had flown 130 combat sorties. In total he logged more than 2, 600 flight hours and 2, 300 hours in the F-16.
As the demonstration team's sole pilot, Phillips was charged with performing maneuvers that highlight the jet's abilities to perform, such as rolls and high-performance climbs. The pilot of an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon who died in a fiery crash at a weekend air show had more than 10 years' experience as a pilot, including 130 combat sorties.