Investigation finds Thunderbird jet crashed due to faulty throttle, pilot cleared of wrongdoing

A U.S Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcon crash landed June 2 in a field near Colorado Springs, Colorado, following the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement. (USAF)

The crash of the USAF Thunderbird F-16 that took place at a Colorado Springs event over the summer is reported to have been caused by a faulty throttle, according to federal accident investigation reports.

The accident review board, led by Colonel Brian Kamp, found that when pilot Major Alex Turner manipulated his faulty throttle on final approach to the airport, a sticky trigger switch caused his engine to shut off and cycle back on- a serious matter for a single-engine plane such as the F-16.

“After beginning landing procedures, the pilot inadvertently rotated the throttle, placing it into an engine cut-off position,” the command said in the accident report. “Normally, this full rotation cannot occur unless a throttle trigger is affirmatively actuated or pressed. However, the throttle trigger was ‘stuck’ in the ‘pressed’ position. The accident investigation board observed debris accumulation in the throttle trigger, combined with wear on the trigger assembly.”

Turner (also known as Thunderbird 6) steered the aircraft away from a residential area before ejecting. After floating safely to the ground, he was given a pep-talk by President Barack Obama, who was attending the festivities that day.

Since the aircraft was largely intact. The throttle assembly was later tested on the aircraft and found to ound to repeat the malfunction several times. Examined under a microscope, the trigger’s parts were found to have critical wear.

The report also dismissed circulating conspiracy theories that claimed the plane ran out of fuel, as the jet had nearly a half-ton of fuel aboard when it crashed. Luckily, the crash did not rupture any fuel lines and no major fires occurred

According to The Gazette, another finding of the board showed that there was no set standard on throttle adjustment, with different manuals concerning the plan giving contradicting information.

Turner, who the board determined was forced to eject, was cleared of any potential wrongdoing.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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