October 4, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Air Force investigators have determined a fatigue crack in a high-pressure turbine blade led to the catastrophic engine failure that resulted in the crash of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The aircraft from Misawa Air Base, Japan, crashed into the Sea of Japan on April 15. Maj. Chad Miller, the pilot, ejected from the aircraft with minor injuries.
The incident occurred at 11:29 a.m. about 1.6 miles northeast of the town of Tanosawa, Japan. Approximately 15 minutes after beginning a qualification training upgrade mission, Miller reported an engine problem. He immediately turned toward land and attempted to restart the engine four times without success. He turned the aircraft parallel to the coast away from populated areas and then ejected. The aircraft was destroyed upon impact with the water.
Based on evidence obtained during the investigation, the accident investigation board president's opinion is that a fatigue crack had developed in a high-pressure turbine blade. The crack caused a portion of the blade to fall off that then caused catastrophic damage and failure of the remaining turbine blades. Once the turbines failed, the engine could no longer produce thrust, continue to operate or be restarted.
Because the catastrophic engine failure occurred 40 miles from the nearest airfield, recovery to a usable runway was not possible.