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Fatal F-16 crash in Germany blamed on pilot error

June 18, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - An Air Force investigations board has determined that pilot error caused a fatal F-16 crash near Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, in March. Luke A. Johnson, 26, died in the crash, which happened as he was preparing to land at the base. His F-16CJ aircraft crashed into a wooded area about two miles from the runway while returning at about 9 p.m. March 20 from a night tactical-intercept training mission.
An Accident Investigation Board, led by Col. Erwin Lessel, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, determined that the cause of the accident was "the pilot's failure to initiate missed-approach procedures as directed by the air traffic controller," according to an Air Force news release.

The board was made up of representatives from fields including legal, medical, maintenance, weather, air traffic control and F-16 expertise. The board did its work from April 22 to May 10 at Spangdahlem and at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where interviews were conducted with deployed personnel.

The 41-page report was released Monday, but a copy could not be obtained by deadline.

Johnson was flying with three other members of the 23rd Fighter Squadron and was the last of the group scheduled to land.

No one on the ground was injured in the crash, which occurred about 500 yards from a logging road.

No witnesses have stepped forward. German police found the site more than two hours after the base control tower lost contact with Johnson's plane.