Air Force releases report for October F-35A fiery crash at HAFB
Jul 27, 2023, 11:57 AM | Updated: 2:43 pm
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — United States Air Force officials say a crash that destroyed a $166.3 million F-35 jet in October was caused by turbulence from a preceding aircraft as four jets returned to Hill Air Force Base from a training event in the Utah Test and Training Range airspace.
The crash happened on Oct. 19, 2022, when the F-35 crashed at the north end of HAFB’s runway. The pilot ejected from the crash and was treated at an area hospital for minor injuries.
An Air Force release said the pilot was the third plane to land as the four-ship formation returned to base. During final approach, the pilot “experienced a slight rumbling to their aircraft due to wake turbulence from the preceding aircraft. The atmospheric disturbance resulted in erratic inputs to the aircraft’s air data application.”
That turbulence caused “erroneous outputs” from the air data application, which led to the F-35’s controls not responding to the actual flight conditions.
Officials said the pilot recognized the F-35 was not responding appropriately and tried to return to controlled flight with manual controls and then full afterburner power. “Due to low altitude, low airspeed and sideslip flight path, the pilot was unable to recover the aircraft and initiated ejection.” He landed just north of the base fence.
“The board president also found one significant contributing factor to be that the pilot did not increase landing spacing from preceding aircraft in accordance with wake turbulence procedures,” the release said.
Witnesses rushed to the scene after they heard the crash and saw the flames. “We know right where the runway is, and we know if there’s smoke coming off that, that something’s gone bad,” Scott Cook said.
Multiple agencies responded to a fire at the crash site. Hill Air Force Base crews took over and cut through the fence to knock down the fire quickly. Most of the plane’s debris landed within the base’s boundaries, but parts of the cockpit, canopy and ejection seat landed just outside of the boundary fence.
“The aircraft was totally destroyed,” said Col. Craig Andrle, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing. The last crash at HAFB before October’s incident was an F-16 crash in 2009. This was the first F-35 crash at the base.