Air Combat Command Boss Doubling Down on Fighter Safety after Crashes

Air Combat Command boss Gen. James M. Holmes is traveling to flying wings to speak with commanders about safety and training in response to a recent pattern of accidents across the Air Force’s fighter fleet, a command spokesperson told Air Force Magazine on July 15.

“The recent incidents involve multiple aircraft types from multiple commands,” ACC spokesperson Leah Garton wrote in an email. “Gen. [James] Mike Holmes, ACC Commander, is assessing current and historical data and looking for common trends or issues. He is also discussing the incidents with other MAJCOM commanders.”

In addition, she said, the command has given its flying units “updated guidance and safety information.” No ACC units are currently pursuing safety standdowns, she confirmed.

On July 13, an F-16 Viper from Holloman Air Force Base’s 49th Wing crashed while landing at the New Mexico installation. The incident, whose cause is under investigation, was the Air Force’s second crash in two weeks and at least its fifth fighter jet crash in about two months.

“During a routine training mission, the F-16 departed the runway while landing,” the wing wrote in a July 15 release.

The pilot was able to eject with only minor injuries, and went home the same night, it added.

“The pilot did exactly what he was supposed to do in this situation,” 49th Wing Commander Col. Ryan Keeney said in the release. “He followed the emergency procedures he learned in training, where we focus on teaching the students to do the ordinary extraordinarily well.”

Holloman’s 54th Fighter Group temporarily paused some of its flying operations following the incident so it could “assess and reset,” but flying resumed on July 15.

On June 30, 1st Lt. David Schmitz from Shaw Air Force Base’s 77th Fighter Squadron was killed when his F-16CM crashed at the South Carolina base.

On June 15, 1st Lt. Kenneth “Kage” Allen, the 493rd Fighter Squadron’s assistant chief of weapons and tactics, was killed in an F-15C crash over the North Sea.

On May 19, an F-35A assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron crash-landed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

And on May 18, an F-22 assigned to Eglin’s 43rd Fighter Squadron crashed north of the base after the pilot was forced to eject.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on July 15 at 3:49 p.m. EDT to include new information from Holloman and a quote from the 49th Wing commander, and at 6:29 p.m. EDT to include additional background information on recent USAF fighter-jet crashes.