Pilot error cited in October midair crash of F-15C aircraft near Okinawa
January 20, 2005
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Pilot error caused two Boeing F-15C aircraft to collide while flying over waters near Okinawa in October, according to an Air Force accident report released Tuesday.
One of the two pilots fell out of formation at 30,000 feet, causing his plane’s left wingtip and horizontal stabilizer to collide with the other plane’s left and right vertical stabilizers, according to the accident investigation board’s findings. Neither pilot was injured, and both planes returned under their own power to Kadena Air Base.
Damages to the planes totaled $1.2 million, said Air Force spokeswoman Patricia Miyagi. The pilots continued flying with reduced qualification levels and were required to fly under supervision, she said. Both pilots were found at fault for failing to avoid the accident, according to the board. The Air Force did not release the pilots’ names.
The Oct. 4 collision, which happened about 115 miles from Okinawa’s main island, sparked protests from citizens and local officials who called for suspensions of all F-15 flights over Kadena. In August, a Marine helicopter crashed on Okinawa International University grounds.
Whether because of human error or mechanical failure, the report reinforces the danger of military flights, said Kadena Town Mayor Tokujitsu Miyagi, who is not related to the Air Force spokeswoman.
“Although the collision took place far down the ocean, the same aircraft did fly over our skies,” Tokujitsu Miyagi said. “The report helped me realize again the possibility that it could have happened over our skies.”
Patricia Miyagi said the Air Force regrets any anxiety the accident caused Okinawans but reiterated that “at no time was there any danger to Okinawa communities.”
The F-15 pilots from the 12th Fighter Squadron were assigned temporarily to Okinawa from Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska, where they since have returned, she said.
However, the remaining F-15s on Okinawa continue to concern Kadena town’s mayor.
“Although the F-15s that involved in the collision were temporarily assigned to the air base, there are other F-15s that are permanently assigned to the air base, which frequently experience mechanical troubles,” Tokujitsu Miyagi said. “I ask the Air Force to pay every possible attention and make efforts to ensure the safety of aircraft operations.”
Flight and safety procedures were reviewed thoroughly after the accident, Patricia Miyagi said.
“The details of this accident investigation report are being distributed to safety offices Air Force-wide to ensure aircrews are aware of the errors that led to the mishap,” she said.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.