Mechanical Malfunction, Pilot Error Blamed for F-16 Crash

Mechanical Malfunction, Pilot Error Blamed for F-16 Crash

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AP) -- A mechanical malfunction and pilot error have been blamed by Air Force investigators for an F-16 crash in Iraq in June.

Capt. Jon Wheeler from Hill's 388th Fighter Wing ejected safely after his engine lost power five hours into an air support mission June 12. The F-16 was destroyed at an estimated loss of $26.8 million, the Air Force said.

A malfunction in the fuel system trapped fuel in the external tanks, starving the engine and causing it to fail, the report said. It blames the pilot for not noticing the trapped fuel and failing to follow checklist procedures throughout the flight.

Between May 19 and Sept. 12, as many as 20 F-16 pilots and 250 maintenance experts from Hill's 421st Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit provided air support for ground troops in Iraq. They had no casualties.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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