The Feb. 20 mid-air collision of two F-15Cs over the Gulf of Mexico was the result of pilot error and not mechanical failure, according to Air Combat Command’s accident investigation board report released Monday. Both pilots failed to clear their flight paths and anticipate their impending high aspect mid-air impact, Brig. Gen. Joseph Reynes, AIB president, told reporters during a conference call. Capt. Tucker Hamilton (mishap pilot 1) ejected upon impact, while 1st Lt. Ali Jivanjee (mishap pilot 2) was fatally injured as a result of the collision. Both pilots were assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla. and were flying a one vs. one high-aspect basic fighter maneuver about 44 nautical miles south of Tyndall AFB, Fla. Reynes said that “clear and convincing evidence” suggests both pilots misperceived their vertical closure during the maneuver. Reynes added that he ruled out any maintenance or airworthiness issues that contributed to the crash. He described Hamilton as a “disciplined, capable fighter pilot” who had some 482 flying hours in the F-15 and had just regained currency after the F-15 fleet’s prolonged grounding. Reynes said that although Jivanjee was an inexperienced wingman, he was “an above average pilot.” He, too, had just regained currency and had about 120 hours in the F-15. Reynes noted a procedural failure as a possible contributor. He said that the day prior to the collision Jivanjee had performed a close pass within 300 feet of another aircraft, a training rule violation that was later discussed with his flight leader but not squadron leadership; Hamilton was unaware of the rule violation. Reynes said that ACC would now require that squadron leaders and flight members receive information about such violations. During the Feb. 20 incident, Reynes said that a recreation indicated that Jivanjee had likely lost sight of Hamilton momentarily behind his canopy. The AIB summary of facts notes: “MP 2 displayed complacency because he may not have moved his head to see around the canopy bow and regain visual contact with MA1 (mishap aircraft 1).” (Executive Summary and Statement of Facts)
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds on, the U.S. Air Force deployed four F-16 fighters to neighboring Poland on Oct. 3, keeping up the service’s continuous presence on NATO’s eastern flank.