A pilot training to become an instructor was at fault in a crash in September at the Nevada Test and Training Range near Las Vegas that destroyed two A-10C Thunderbolt II attack jets, according to an Air Force investigation released Thursday.
The pilot failed to adhere to his assigned altitude and did not hear audible signals notifying him that he was climbing higher than that altitude, investigators with the Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board determined. The pilot’s jet eventually climbed into another pilot’s assigned altitude, colliding with his aircraft, according to the investigation.
The pilot assigned to fly at the higher altitude, an instructor with the Weapons Instructor Course, could not see the other aircraft when it hit with his plane and could not have avoided the crash, investigators determined.
They also found the training pilot’s mistake was not intentional.
The pilots’ identities were not publicly released with the report.
The crash on Sept. 6, 2017 cost the Air Force an estimated $30 million, according to the report. Both pilots were facing “uncontrollable” planes and were able to eject from their aircraft, suffering only minor injuries, according to the investigation.
Other factors that contributed to crash included misperception of a changing environment, and a breakdown in visibility, according to the report.
The crash occurred about 8 p.m. local time over the massive Nevada military training range just north of Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.
The A-10, commonly known as the Warthog, is a single-seat combat jet primarily used to support ground troops from low altitudes. It boasts a 30 mm Gatling gun that can fire armor piercing and explosive rounds at up to 3,900 rounds per minute. It can also carry conventional bombs.
The A-10, which has been in use since the 1970s, was once expected to be cut from service, but top Air Force officials have vowed to continue flying the aircraft through the foreseeable future, citing its heavy use in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Air Force officials said 2017 marked the second safest year in the service’s record for Class A aviation mishaps – incidents that result in $2 million or more of damage, the total destruction of an aircraft or a fatality or permanent injury.
But the service has faced an increase in recent years in Class C mishaps, which result in damages costing $50,000 or more but less than $500,000 in repairs or a non-fatal injury that results in more than one day away from work.
Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, last week ordered the Safety Office at Headquarters Air Force to review Class C mishaps in an effort to drive down their occurrences, Air Force officials said.
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