March 22, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A 23rd Fighter Squadron pilot died Wednesday night when his F-16CJ crashed two miles northeast of Spangdahlem Air Base.
The air base's control tower lost radio and radar contact with Capt. Luke A. Johnson, 26, at 9:10 p.m. as he prepared to land.
Johnson was flying with three other aircraft from his squadron, known as the Fighting Hawks, for a night training mission. All took off from the base at 7:55 p.m. Johnson was the last of the four fighters scheduled to land.
Johnson's F-16 crashed in a flat, wooded area about 500 yards from a logging road near Landscheid. No one on the ground was injured and no property was damaged.
After contact with the plane was lost, Air Force officials immediately notified German police, who patrolled the last known location of the plane until they found the area of impact at 23.40h.
No one had seen the plane crash and no fire was visible after the accident.
At the time of the accident, winds were out of the southwest at 6 knots and visibility was 8,000 meters, about five miles, with light rain and fog - considered favorable flying conditions, base spokesman Tech. Sgt. Rich Romero said.
Flags at 52nd Fighter Wing headquarters flew at half-staff and skies that normally roar with the sound of warplanes were silent. The base hosts about 60 fighter aircraft and launches roughly 1,050 sorties a month.
Flights were suspended Thursday for Johnson's 23rd Fighter Squadron, the F-16s of its fellow 22nd Fighter Squadron, and the A-10s of the 81st Fighter Squadron, Romero said.
The last fatal aircraft accident at Spangdahlem was May 30, 1995, when an F-15 crashed.
After Wednesday's accident, the base commander, Col. Greg Ihde, personally visited several of the units on base to brief them on the tragedy.
Johnson, of Powell Park, Wyo., had been stationed at Spangdahlem for two years. This was his first operational assignment after being commissioned in 1997. Johnson graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. His wife, Angela, is a captain in the Spangdahlem public affairs office.