The Swiss air force has no immediate explanation as to how an F/A-18 fighter jet suddenly lost altitude and crashed in France on Wednesday, injuring the pilot. Air force commander Aldo Schellenberg said that there was no mid-air collision.
The F/A-18 was involved in an air combat training exercise with two Tiger aircraft in the cross-border training airspace between Switzerland France. The fighter, with just the pilot on board, took off from the Payerne airbase in Switzerland and crashed outside the French city of Besançon.
Schellenberg praised the French emergency services for rescuing the pilot, whose condition in hospital is described as “non-life threatening”. “I am happy that the pilot in this accident could be saved,” Schellenberg said at a news conference in Bern.
The F/A-18 fighter was one of a fleet of 34 procured by the Swiss air force in the mid-1990s. There are now 31 left in service.
In October 2013, one of the same type of aircraft was destroyed with the loss of two lives in central Switzerland. Another F/A-18 crashed in canton Valais in 1998, killing its two occupants.
Investigations into the accident are ongoing in both Switzerland and France.
Swiss air force accident history
Since 1941 the Swiss air force has registered 400 accidents, resulting in 350 deaths. The most recent major incidents before the 14 October F/A-18 crash are as follows:
October 2013: The pilot of an F/A-18 is killed along with the jet’s passenger, a doctor with the air force’s Aeromedical unit, when the plane crashed into a cliff in canton Obwalden. A military investigation found that pilot error was to blame for the crash in poor weather conditions.
November 2002: Two military personnel were killed when a PC-7 collided with the cable of cable car in Bonaduz, canton Graubünden.
October 2001: All four occupants of an Alouette III helicopter were killed after the aircraft hit a cable in Montana, canton Valais. In May of the same year another helicopter, of the same type, also crashed after hitting a cable in Delémont, canton Jura. The pilot and three border guards were fatally injured.
October 1998: Two PC-9 training aircraft collided in mid-air over Oberuzwil, canton St Gallen. While one aircraft managed to land, the other crashed killing the pilot.
April 1998: Both occupants of an F/A-18 fighter jet were killed as the aircraft crashed at Crans, canton Valais. An inquiry found that the most likely cause was special disorientation of the pilot.
November 1997: The pilot of a Pilatus Porter PC6 aircraft dies along with four soldiers during a crash in bad weather near the town of Boltigen, canton Bern. In March of that year, a Mirage III fighter jet crashed near Ste-Croix, canton Vaud, but the pilot survived.
July 1996: An F-5E Tiger fighter crashed near to Schänis, canton St Gallen, after an accidental ejector seat launch. The pilot survived.