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Fri, Apr 21, 2017

USAF Released Final Report From 2016 U-2 Accident

Instructor Pilot Fatally Injured In The Accident

The U.S. Air Force has released its final report from an accident involving a U-2 reconnaissance airplane September 20, 2016. An instructor pilot was fatally injured in the accident, while the pilot receiving training survived.

According to the Executive Summary of the report, the two-seat TU-2S went down 18 nautical miles west of Beale Air Force Base (AFB), California (CA). Mishap Instructor Pilot (MIP) and Mishap Pilot (MP) egressed the Mishap Aircraft (MA) at approximately 8,500 feet mean sea level. MIP did not survive ejection, and MP sustained non-life threatening injuries. 

MA, tail number 80-001068, was assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9 RW), Beale AFB, CA. MA impacted private property 5 miles northwest of Sutter, CA, resulting in a grass fire that burned most of a 262 acre pasture. MA was completely destroyed. There were no injuries on the ground. The mishap occurred during the first of three Acceptance Flight (AF) mission profiles for the MP.

AF missions are for the screening of prospective U-2 pilots. MA launched at 0855L, with MIP executing the takeoff and transferring aircraft control to the MP en route to the maneuver area, 15- 20 nautical miles west of Beale AFB. On the recovery from a third no-flap “approach to stall” maneuver, MA entered a full aerodynamic secondary stall with the left wing sharply dropping 70- 80 degrees and the nose falling 35-40 degrees below the horizon. It could not be determined what actions MIP took to recover MA. However, with MA rapidly approaching the minimum uncontrolled ejection altitude, MIP commanded ejection. Immediately after ejection and while still seated in the ejection seat, MIP and his seat impacted the last 5 feet of MA’s right wing, fatally wounding the MIP. MIP’s parachute automatically deployed, with MIP landing within a quarter mile of MP, just over one mile from the MA wreckage. 

MP received minor facial burns from MIP’s ejection seat rocket motor and injuries to his left ankle during the parachute landing. Beale AFB first responders arrived at the crash site at 0959L. Local civilian first responders were already on scene fighting the grass fire. MIP and MP were located before 1000L by a 9 RW T-38/A and a civilian helicopter. MP was evacuated by civilian helicopter, arriving at a civilian hospital at 1228L. MIP was recovered and transported by the Sutter County Coroner. 

The Accident Investigation Board President found by a preponderance of evidence that the cause of the mishap was the MP’s flight control inputs during the recovery phase of a no-flap “approach to stall” maneuver that led MA into an unintentional secondary stall and uncommanded sharp left wing drop, with 70-80 degrees of bank and the nose 35-40 degrees below the horizon. As MA approached the minimum uncontrolled ejection altitude, MIP commanded ejection. During the subsequent ejection, MIP and his seat struck the MA’s right wing, resulting in fatal injuries.

(Image provided with accident report)

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