Fatal Deflection

Improper rudder trim caused the fatal crash of a Greek F-16 during a NATO training course at Los Llanos AB, Spain, on Jan. 26, investigators determined. The jet’s rudder trim was inadvertently set to maximum right deflection, causing the jet to yaw sharply as it lifted off and gained airspeed, the French-led safety investigation board determined. The two-seat F-16D entered a sideslip roughly 60 feet above the ground, causing the pilot to apply hard aft-left stick inputs to recover, inducing high angle of attack and subsequent roll into the ground. Investigators noted that Greek personnel deviated from standard procedures by conducting end-of-runway checks in the parking area. This meant the pilot completed his checklists early and failed to recheck rudder trim before take-off—possibly allowing stray equipment to move the trim wheel unnoticed. Both pilots ejected outside safe ejection parameters and were fatally injured in the crash. Nine French air force ground personnel were killed, several allied airmen were injured, and eight aircraft—including an Air Force F-15E—were damaged or destroyed along with base infrastructure in the crash and ensuing blaze. (Read the full safety investigation board report; Caution, large-sized file.) (SIB appendix, crash site,? and damages.)