An Air Force pilot who fatally crashed an F-15C fighter jet in June was distracted and failed to focus on the aircraft’s instruments as he encountered bad weather, according to an accident investigation report released Monday by the Pentagon.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe found that First Lt. Kenneth Allen, 27, was fixated on the intercept of the simulated adversary aircraft and failed “to execute cockpit instrument visual scans when the pilot encountered Instrument Meteorological Conditions,” the report states.
Because of significant cloud cover in the North Sea, Allen had reduced visibility and couldn’t tell where the horizon was, making him unable to sense that his aircraft was pitching downward, the report said.
Allen crashed on June 15 after taking off with the 493rd Fighter Squadron from RAF Lakenheath, a Royal Air Force base in the United Kingdom located about 25 miles from Cambridge that hosts U.S. service members.
“This unfortunate accident is yet another reminder of the inherent risks Airmen take on a daily basis to ensure the successes of our Air Force,” Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander, said in a statement Monday. “Lt. Allen was an outstanding officer and a tremendous asset to the team. No words can compensate for such a painful and sudden loss.”
The investigation found that Allen was flying at about 20,300 feet during the training exercise when he was instructed make a hard turn in the opposite direction and look for "exercise adversary aircraft" flying below him.
Allen descended, found the adversary aircraft and fired a simulated missile before stabilizing at about 12,000 feet. But a training officer told Allen he likely missed his target, causing him to dive after the adversary aircraft.
His F-15 reached 1,000 feet before he attempted to pull back up above the water. His plane was destroyed after crashing into the sea at 650 miles per hour.
Allen was “fixated on acquiring the [adversary], either visually or with his radar, and did not monitor his aircraft altitude, airspeed, and attitude cockpit instruments,” the report said.
Allen graduated from F-15C training in January and qualified as an F-15C wingman in May. He “had a reputation as a hard worker who exerted significant effort studying and preparing for missions,” the investigation stated.