Pilot error caused Swiss jet to crash in France

The Swiss F/A-18 jet fighter crashed on October 14, 2015 during a training exercise in eastern France Keystone

The crash of a Swiss F/A-18 fighter jet in October 2015 in the French Jura region was caused by human error, a military investigation has revealed. The pilot, who survived with light injuries, failed to correctly carry out emergency procedures, it found. 

This content was published on June 13, 2017 - 11:51

On October 14, 2015, an F/A-18 jet with one pilot on board was flying in airspace shared by the Swiss and French for training exercises when it crashed in a field near the village of Glamondans, east of the French city of Besançon.

The accident occurred late in the morning during a training exercise with two F-5 Tiger planes, the government said in a statement External linkon Tuesday outlining their assessment of the event. 

It said a detailed investigation revealed that the jet’s left engine had stalled, causing it to lose power. The plane had rolled to the left and rapidly lost altitude. The pilot had been unable to stabilize the plane and had activated his ejector seat several moments later. He injured himself slightly on landing.

The government said the jet crash had been caused by pilot error.

“The pilot ejected without having applied the necessary emergency measures required in the event of an engine stall and did not carry out – or at least not correctly – the manoeuvres specified when a plane starts to roll or lurch,” it stated. 

Other reasons for the crash, such as a technical failure, pilot health or intervention of a third party could all be ruled out, it went on. 

The authorities said the pilot could have reduced the speed of the affected engine and lowered its pressure, which would have prevented it from stalling and allowing him to regain control. 

The pilot, who had over 3,000 hours of flying experience, is also accused of not having respected recognised safety flying altitudes.

An investigation has been opened against the pilot, who is suspected of breaking military rules.

Recent accidents

Switzerland’s F/A-18 jets have been involved in a series of recent accidents. An F/A-18 military jet also crashed into the mountains in central Switzerland in August 2016, while two F-5 fighter jets from the Patrouille Suisse aerobatic display team collided in the Netherlands in June. Another F/A-18 was written off after crashing near Lake Lucerne in 2013.

In November 2016, Swiss Defence Minister Guy Parmelin announced a fighter jet strategy that involves spending half a billion francs to refurbish current planes, while laying the groundwork for purchasing new ones by 2025. 

According to the defence ministry, only 25 of its 53 F-5 Tiger fighter jets are air worthy, while 30 of 34 F/A-18 planes are operational. The acquisition of new fighter planes has stalled after the Swiss people voted against the acquisition of 22 JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets in 2014. 

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