NORFOLK, Va. -- An F-16 crashed in a southeastern Kansas field in October after a student pilot failed to maintain visual contact with his instructor's jet, resulting in a midair collision that caused the instructor to lose control and eject, the Air Force said Friday.
The pilots were participating in a combat maneuvers training mission when it happened, according to an investigation by the Virginia-based Air Combat Command. The student pilot was able to return to Tulsa National Guard Base, Oklahoma, where both pilots belonged to the 138th Fighter Wing. The instructor and his plane crashed about 3 miles northeast of Moline, Kansas, a farming and ranching community.
He pilot's seat landed about 60 feet from the plane, and he suffered an ankle sprain and a stiff neck and upper back, the Washington Post reported.
The report said the instructor's jet was destroyed on impact, while the student pilot's jet had 5 feet of its right wing tip cut off from the collision.
The report says another jet was brought into inspect the student pilot's plane over an unpopulated area to make sure it could safety get back to Oklahoma before the decision to do so was made.
The Air Force estimates the damage to government property at $22.5 million. There was no significant damage to private property.
The report says the instructor and student were serving as each other's wingman in a combat training scenario involving a third jet that was simulating an adversary attacking them. The first engagement finished with no problems, but on the second one the student pilot failed to tell his instructor that he had lost sight of his jet.
As the supporting fighter, it was the student pilot's job to ensure the flight path was clear.
Seconds later, the student pilot tried to get behind the attacking jet, but the instructor pilot misperceived the turn the student was making.
As a result, the instructor pilot began moving to simulate a kill on the attacking jet and failed to recognize he was on a collision course with the student's plane in time.
The Air Force has not released the names of any of the pilots involved.