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Air Force: Disorientation, faulty GPS caused deadly F-16 crash in Michigan

Air Force: Disorientation, faulty GPS caused deadly F-16 crash in Michigan
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A Wisconsin Air National Guard pilot’s fatal crash last year in Michigan was due to numerous factors, including faulty GPS, according to an Air Force report released Wednesday.

Spatial disorientation, flying at night in bad weather and no working GPS all contributed to the crash in northern Michigan on Dec. 8, 2020, that killed 37-year-old Capt. Durwood “Hawk” Jones, the Air Force investigation determined.

Jones was killed instantly when his F-16 went down in the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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On the night of the crash, Jones and his wingman were scheduled to conduct an aerospace control alert training mission, but the Wisconsin Civil Air Patrol aircraft – meant to be the intercept target – canceled because of bad weather near Green Bay, according to the Air Force Accident Investigation Board report.

Instead, the two pilots took off to practice a scramble flight, during which Jones noticed his GPS had lost its satellite tracking data. While trying to resolve the navigation problems, Jones lost sight of his wingman when the two flew into bad weather and radioed that he was “blind.”

Jones then became spatially disoriented and was unaware that his F-16 was quickly losing altitude at a high speed when he crashed into a wooded area, according to the report. He did not attempt to eject and the aircraft was destroyed.

The Air Force investigation determined that Jones failed to "recognize, confirm, and recover from the unusual attitude created by the spatially disorienting event” due to weather conditions, low light and a degraded GPS satellite tracking system.

Jones, originally from Albuquerque, N.M., had been assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing out of Truax Field Air National Guard Base.

“We are an extremely close knit group in the fighter wing, and the loss of one of our own brings immeasurable sadness to every member of our organization,” 515th Fighter Wing commander Col. Bart Van Roo said in a statement following the crash.