Plane crash which killed fighter pilot partly caused by ‘reduced visibility’, report finds
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“Reduced visibility” was one of the factors in a tragic plane crash off the North Sea which led to the death of a much-loved RAF Lakenheath fighter pilot, an investigation has found.
First Lieutenant Kenneth Allen died when his F15C Eagle crashed at around 9.40am on June 15 this year while on a routine training exercise.
His body was recovered from the North Sea later that day, while the F15C - from Lakenheath’s 48th Fighter Wing - was destroyed.
A US Air Force Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report into the crash found the American airman’s “fixation on the intercept of the (simulated) adversary aircraft and failure to execute cockpit instrument visual scans” helped cause the incident.
It found “reduced visibility and lack of a discernible horizon for the pilot resulted in spatial disorientation”.
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There were “multiple layers of cloud” in the area, the report said.
On exiting cloud at around 1,000ft “with a visible horizon and ‘ground rush’ of the rapidly approaching ocean”, Lt Allen “initiated a recovery attempt... but was unable to complete the recovery based upon the low altitude and speed of his descent”, the report said.
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It found he did not attempt to eject.
General Jeff Harrigian, United States Air Force in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, said: “This unfortunate accident is yet another reminder of the inherent risks airmen take on a daily basis to ensure the successes of our Air Force.
“Lt Allen was an outstanding officer and a tremendous asset to the team.
“No words can compensate for such a painful and sudden loss.”
Lt Allen had served with the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk since February and was assistant chief of weapons and tactics for the 493rd Fighter Squadron.
He is survived by wife Hannah and his parents.
The couple married in a civil ceremony in February, and Mrs Allen described him as “the love of my life”.
Colonel Jason Camilletti, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, said: “The loss of an airman is never easy, and this was no exception.
“Our Liberty Wing community, especially the Reapers of the 493rd Fighter Squadron, was truly touched by the tremendous outpouring of support from around the globe in our time of grieving.”
HM Coastguard, which co-ordinated search efforts after the crash, received reports that an aircraft had gone into the sea 74 nautical miles (85 miles) off the coast of Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.
Wreckage of the aircraft, valued at around 45 million US dollars (£33.4 million), was located before Lt Allen was found and confirmed to be dead.
USAFE said it was “constantly evaluating safety procedures” and would ensure the report’s findings are incorporated into flying training.