November 17, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - An Air Force F-16 involved in a fatal collision with a small plane was flying too fast and hadn't made contact with air traffic controllers, federal authorities said.
Two F-16Cs descended quickly through controlled airspace east of Tampa International Airport on Thursday but didn't notify air traffic controllers as they should have, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday. The pilot of a small private plane was killed when it was hit by one of the F-16s.
The fighter pilot maneuvered his plane away from populated areas and parachuted to safety. The Air Force pilots may have been using the wrong radio frequency or may not have tried to make contact, federal investigators said.
Preliminary radar data shows the F-16 that hit the small plane was flying faster than 480 mph. Planes flying below 10, 000 feet are limited to 300 mph. Although military planes are allowed to fly faster in special areas, the planes were not in such an area, said Jorge Prellezo, NTSB regional director.
Air Force officials said they would not comment until their investigation is complete in a month or two.