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An Air Force investigation failed to detect the cause of an engine failure that caused an F-15 jet fighter, like the two pictured here with a Japan Air Self Defense Force F-4, to crash Jan. 17 in waters off Okinawa.
An Air Force investigation failed to detect the cause of an engine failure that caused an F-15 jet fighter, like the two pictured here with a Japan Air Self Defense Force F-4, to crash Jan. 17 in waters off Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — An Air Force investigation has failed to determine the cause of an engine failure that caused an F-15C Eagle jet fighter to crash in waters off Okinawa Jan. 17.

In a report released Friday in Hawaii, investigators said “insufficient evidence exists to determine the root cause of the engine failure.”

However, the board also concluded, “the pilot’s actions did not contribute to the failure and that maintenance on the aircraft was performed by well-trained, experienced and qualified personnel.”

“A thorough review of maintenance procedures revealed no adverse trends which could have contributed to the accident,” the board added.

The crash occurred about 55 miles northeast of Okinawa in a training area known as “Whiskey 173” when the plane, assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron, developed a right engine failure that damaged aircraft components critical for maintaining control of the aircraft during air combat maneuvers with three other F-15s. The other pilots returned to Kadena safely.

The pilot ejected from the aircraft and was rescued after about 50 minutes in the water. He was treated for minor injuries.

According to a summary of the accident investigation, the training area is a specially designated airspace where nonmilitary air and sea traffic is restricted when military training is scheduled. The F-15, valued at $29.9 million, was destroyed upon impact and there was no damage to private property.

“Thirty-one minutes after takeoff the (pilot) heard a loud bang and felt the (aircraft) shudder,” the report states. “The (pilot) received multiple right engine overheat and fire warnings. He correctly applied the necessary emergency procedures. After the (pilot) shut down the right engine, he noted the flight controls were not responding normally and the (aircraft) began to exhibit a right rolling tendency.”

The pilot fought to control the aircraft, but ejected when he felt the right roll could not be stopped.

The investigation board determined the pilot’s actions were “focused, precise and appropriate” and “did not contribute to the mishap.”

The accident investigation board met Feb. 17 to review the crash. The board president was a senior-rated pilot and the other board members included experts in maintenance, engines, military law and flight safety, according to the report.

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