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F/A-18 US Navy to help investigate Swiss fighter jet crash

Pilot error was deemed at fault in the October 2015 crash of an F/A-18 Swiss Air Force aircraft

(© KEYSTONE / ALEXANDRA WEY)

Switzerland has asked the United States Navy to investigate a 2015 F/A-18 fighter jet accident. US tests are being sought to explain why an engine stall warning was delayed in the crash. 

The Federal Office for Defence Procurement (armasuisse) said the “in-depth investigation” will be carried out by the American Navy together with the manufacturer of the F/A-18. Armasuisse said it is not yet known when the results will be availalble. 

A report on the accident issued in June concluded it occurred due to pilot error. The report also indicated that the pilot, who escaped with light injuries, received a message regarding left engine failure 24 seconds late but said this delay was not directly responsible for the crash. 

The accident, which took place over France’s Jura region, occurred during training with the F/A-18 and two F-5 Tiger jets. When the F/A-18 pilot wanted to fly right in the last phase of the exercise, the airplane instead began to turn to the left. The pilot tried to correct course but received a warning about the stalled engine at the same time.

The accident report stated that the pilot failed to take specific actions that would have remedied the situation and that the pilot was flying too high for safe training. 

The 38-year-old pilot escaped the crash after using the ejector seat and parachuting to the ground. 

An investigation has been opened into whether the pilot violated military law by failing to comply with flight regulations. He is still employed by the air force. 

Series of 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.  

swissinfo.ch and agencies/vdv

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