Spatial disorientation led to Djibouti crash, Air Force says

WASHINGTON – An investigation has concluded that four airmen killed when their U-28A aircraft crashed earlier this year in Djibouti had become confused about their aircraft’s proximity to the ground, the Air Force announced Wednesday.

The Feb. 18 accident occurred near Camp Lemonnier in the small East African nation of Djibouti. The crew, based at Hurlburt Field, Fla., was flying an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission in support of the war in Afghanistan when they fell victim to spatial disorientation, an Air Force Special Operations Command investigation found.

“When spatial disorientation is unrecognized, a person's cognitive awareness varies from reality in respect to: attitude, position, velocity, direction of movement or acceleration,” an Air Force press release said.

There was no sign of mechanical malfunction, and the crew never lost control of the plane, the Air Force said. “There were no indications the crew took any actions to control the descent rate and nose down attitude of the aircraft,” the press release said.

The pilot, copilot, a combat systems officer and a tactical systems officer all died instantly on impact and the $14.5 million dollar aircraft was destroyed, the Air Force said.



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