F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Utah F-16 crash - accident report released

September 28, 2009 (by Air Combat Command) - A pilot's failure to recognize his altitude during night, low altitude high-angle strafing training caused the crash of an F-16 at the Utah Test and Training Range June 22, according to an Air Combat Command AIB report released Sept. 28.

USAF F-16C block 40 #89-2108 from the 4th FS is photographed on a sunny ramp at Hill AFB on June 3rd, 2006. [Photo by Duane Kaiser]

The pilot, Capt. George B. Houghton, was killed upon impact, and the $21.3 million aircraft (#89-2108), assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing from Hill Air Force Base in Utah was destroyed.

There was no damage to personal property.

According to the Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board report, the pilot was likely focused on visually positioning himself for an attack and was unaware of his low altitude.

There was no evidence the pilot attempted to recover from the diving approach on the target or that he attempted to eject.

The board also found five factors that substantially contributed to this mishap: although the mission pilot was current, qualified and appropriately supervised, he had limited total experience in this type of event; the mission pilot channelized his attention on attempting to visually prosecute the attack, to the exclusion of visual and audible cues of a more immediate priority; the mission pilot failed to perform an effective visual scan of his flight instruments; the mission pilot's mental expectation of his aircraft parameters was distinctly different from reality, making it difficult to mentally process data appearing contrary to what he was expecting, altering his perception of the target, ground cues and altitude indications; and low-illumination conditions and lack of terrain contrast made it difficult for the mission pilot to visually distinguish terrain features and recognize his proximity to the ground.

Courtesy of Air Combat Command Public Affairs