US F-16 crashes in Germany, pilot ejects safely

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon takes of from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, in August 2018. An F-16 crashed about 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, near Zemmer, Germany, during a routine training sortie. The pilot ejected safely and was recovered with minor injuries.


By MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 8, 2019

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed Tuesday afternoon near the German town of Zemmer-Rodt, Air Force and German officials said.

The pilot ejected safely and was recovered with minor injuries, officials at Spangdahlem Air Base said in a statement. The aircraft, which was on a routine training flight, was assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Wing, at Spangdahlem, the statement said.

Several people called the German police in Trier at about 3:15 p.m. to report that a plane had crashed, the police said in a statement.

The plane went down in an uninhabited area, a few miles south of Spangdahlem and north of the city of Trier, the statement said. Police cordoned off the area and shut down several roads.

There were unconfirmed reports of large spills of aviation fuel near the scene of the crash.

Spangdahlem is conducting a base readiness exercise this week, testing its ability to function in a wartime environment.

Tuesday’s crash was the fifth involving planes out of the base in Germany’s Rheinland-Pfalz state since 2002.

Capt. Luke Johnson of the 52d Fighter Wing died that year when his F-16 crashed near the base as he was returning from a night training mission.

In 2006, an F-16 fighter jet from Spangdahlem went down in a field just outside a small village near the base when the pilot ran out of fuel after reporting problems with his landing gear. The pilot, 1st Lt. Trevor Merrell, was able to eject safely and sustained only minor injuries. An investigation concluded that the accident was caused by pilot error, but a “visual illusion” that made Merrell think he was approaching Spangdahlem’s runway too high was a contributing factor.

In 2011, Lt. Col. Scott Hurrelbrink ejected just seconds before his A-10 Thunderbolt II crashed in a field near the town of Laufeld, around 20 miles northeast of Spangdahlem. Investigators determined that poor weather, the pilot’s lack of recent experience flying in close formation in heavy clouds and procedural errors on the part of the pilot and the flight lead contributed to the crash.

In 2015, an F-16 out of Spangdahlem crashed near the Bavarian city of Bayreuth. The aircraft had experienced engine failure and the pilot was unable to restart the engine prior to ejecting, an Air Force accident investigation found.

Jennifer Svan and Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this report.