December 5, 2003 (by Kevin Coyne) - Air Force investigators have determined trapped external fuel due to an aircraft malfunction and the pilot's failure to properly monitor his fuel status were the causes of the F-16CG crash in the Iraqi area of responsibility June 12, 2003.
The aircraft was assigned to the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and is a part of the 421st Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
After more than five hours into a close air support mission, the pilot ejected safely after experiencing engine failure. The aircraft, with an estimated value of $26.8 million, was destroyed. There was no other damage to military or civilian property.
According to the Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Report released today, the trapped fuel was caused either by a malfunctioning external vent and pressurization valve, a combination of a malfunctioning right external refuel/transfer shutoff valve and malfunctioning external fuel transfer override float switch, or an external fuel transfer override relay.
Investigators found that the engine's power loss was due to fuel starvation. The pilot failed to notice the fuel on the aircraft was trapped in the external tanks. Additionally, the pilot failed to follow checklist procedures and to properly prioritize fuel checks throughout the flight.