Pilot error, a decision not to eject, and ejection seat malfunctions all contributed to the June 30 crash of an F-16 fighter. The Pilot, 32-year-old 1st Lt. David Schmitz, died in the crash at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. The mishap occurred while Schmitz was taking part in a nighttime mission that would have entailed his first midair refueling and a simulated suppression of enemy air defenses. After the first attempt to refuel was unsuccessful, Schmitz and his flight leader opted to have him return to base because his aircraft was running low on fuel. An Air Force Investigation Board probe determined that as the pilot attempted to land, his plane sustained significant landing gear damage as it struck a localizer antenna array just short of the runway.
“Based on the damage to the aircraft and the anticipated directional control problems that would occur during any subsequent landing, it was determined to attempt an approach-end cable arrestment,” the Air Force stated in a press release.
The tailhook missed the cable, however, and the left wing made contact with the runway. Schmitz ejected, but the seat malfunctioned. His parachute never opened, and he died on impact when he hit the ground.
The investigation also concluded that the supervisor of flying opted to try the arrested landing rather than consulting the aircraft manufacturer.