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Pilot error caused October collision of 2 F-16s; 1 jet landed with half a wing sheared off

In this file photo from May 1, 2014, F-16s from the 138th Fighter Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard, queue for refueling near Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, Texas.

CHASITY LOLLIS/U.S. AIR FORCE

By MICHAEL WINTER | USA Today (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 21, 2015

Two F-16C pilots survived a midair crash during a training flight over Kansas, with the student flier managing to return safely to base in Oklahoma with half of one wing sheared off, the Air Force announced Friday.

The instructor suffered minor injuries after ejecting from his crippled fighter, which crashed in a field near Moline, Kan., on Oct. 20.

The pilots, assigned to the Oklahoma Air National Guard's 125th Fighter Squadron, 138th Fighter Wing at Tulsa, were flying in formation, conducting tricky combat maneuvers, with a third F-16 role playing as an attacking enemy. The two pilots lost sight of each other before their right wings collided 16 seconds later in clear skies.

Five feet of the trainee's right wing, including a wingtip missile, were sheared off, and the instructor's jet lost all control and stalled. He ejected around 7,500 feet and landed just 60 feet from his destroyed plane, valued at $22.5 million. He suffered minor ankle, neck and back pain.

After a visual inspection of the damage by the third pilot, the trainee flew 100 miles back to base with one and a half wings.

An accident investigation board blamed the collision on the student pilot, who had only 106 flying hours in the F-16, saying he had "disregarded his primary responsibilities, which were maintaining visual and flight-path de-confliction." But the instructor, with 2,400 hours' experience, was also faulted for miscommunications and misperceiving a hard-left turn by the trainee as a right turn.

None of the pilots were identified, and the report, dated Jan. 9, makes no mention of any disciplinary actions.

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