Deaths Up From Aircraft Accidents

During Fiscal 2008, the Air Force lost 13 airmen to aircraft accidents. (See Data Points: Flying Accidents Take Heavy Toll) Year end data show that the service had the same number of Class A mishaps—27 in both 2007 and 2008—but there were just two fatalities in 2007. (Class A accidents are those that result in a fatality or total permanent disability, loss of an aircraft, or property damage of $1 million or more.) The service has released accident investigation board reports on four of the six fatal accidents, attributing pilot error to three and mechanical failure to the fourth. As we reported, pilot error caused the Feb. 20 mid-air collision of two F-15Cs over the Gulf of Mexico, and our earlier report on the March 14 crash of an F-16C in Arizona also noted presumptive pilot error. According to the executive summary of the AIB report on the April 23 crash of a T-38C trainer at Columbus AFB, Miss., the aircraft’s right aileron failed, causing the aircraft to roll to the left upon takeoff. Neither the instructor pilot nor student pilot could maintain control, and the aircraft, completely inverted, struck the ground, bursting into flames. In a second T-38 accident days later at Sheppard AFB, Tex., the AIB found that the IP failed to “execute the critical emergency procedures” when the right engine failed from ingesting debris during a botched touch-and-go. The AIB reports are still pending on the July 21 B-52 crash that claimed six airmen and the July 30 F-15D crash that killed one airman.