Excess airspeed and insufficient stopping distance caused Thunderbird F-16D crash last June


By Dario Leone
Nov 7 2017
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Upon landing, the pilot was unable to stop the F-16D on the prepared surface. As a result, the aircraft departed the runway and overturned in the grass

According to an Accident Investigation Board report released on Nov. 3, 2017, excess airspeed and insufficient stopping distance on a wet runway resulted in a Thunderbird F-16D being overturned and destroyed upon landing at Dayton International Airport, Ohio, on Jun. 23, 2017.

Capt. Erik Gonsalves, the pilot of the F-16D, sustained injuries and the crewmember, Sgt. Kenneth Cordova, was uninjured.

The mishap occurred after a familiarization sortie for Cordova, during which Gonsalves demonstrated the capabilities of the F-16D and the maneuvers performed by the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron (USAFADS), the Thunderbirds.

Upon landing, Gonsalves was unable to stop the aircraft on the prepared surface. As a result, the aircraft departed the runway and overturned in the grass.

Excess airspeed and insufficient stopping distance caused Thunderbird F-16D crash last June

The accident investigation board concluded contributing factors to the accident included: environmental conditions affecting vision, misperception of changing environment, and failure to follow procedures.

No other personnel were injured. The aircraft, valued at $29 million, was destroyed. There was no known damage to civilian property. At the time of the accident, the pilot was a current and qualified USAFADS pilot, with a total flight time of 1,761 hours.

The crew and aircraft are assigned to the 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada.

Noteworthy the crash came just over a year after another Thunderbird F-16C crashed just before landing in Colorado Springs, Colorado: in that case the accident happened after a Thunderbird flyover for the Air Force Academy graduation on Jun. 2, 2016, during which, the pilot, Maj. Alex Turner, encountered a throttle malfunction and successfully ejected from the jet, avoiding any loss of life or damage to civilian property.

The vertical stabilizer of that aircraft was then saved by Airmen from the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard (COANG), on Mar. 14 at Peterson AFB.

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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