Cable blamed for crash of Mo. Guard plane

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- A jammed cable caused the crash of a Missouri Air National Guard F-15D during drills in Indiana in May, and there was nothing the pilot could do except eject from the tumbling plane, according to an Air Force report released Monday.

The report by the Air Force's Air Combat Command's Investigation Board said a jammed Aileron Rudder Interconnect crossover cable was the culprit in the May 30 crash. The cable transfers a pilot's flight control inputs to the aircraft.

The crash happened during maneuvers over a lightly populated area near the Indiana-Illinois border, about eight miles south of Vincennes, Ind. Four F-15s from the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Fighter Wing, based at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, flew maneuvers with four F-16 jets from the Indiana Air National Guard's 181st Fighter Wing, based in Terre Haute.

The pilot, a veteran of 15 years of flying, was able to eject and had only minor injuries. No one on the ground was hurt. The plane, valued at $43.7 million, was destroyed.

"We're actually very lucky," said Capt. Bridget Zorn of the Missouri Air National Guard. "Some farm fields were damaged but no lives were lost in this incident."

The report said the plane's flight controls became unresponsive to the pilot's commands about 20 minutes into the training mission. The cable jammed as the plane was descending and in a left-hand turn, "rendering the aircraft virtually unrecoverable," according to the report.

The F-15's altitude at the time "did not allow the pilot adequate time to attempt corrective courses of action."

The report said the crossover cable was properly installed, inspected and maintained, leaving unclear why it malfunctioned. Zorn said the cable was later inspected by the Air Force and by Boeing Co., neither of which could determine why the cable failed to work properly.

The plane was built in 1978, but Zorn declined to speculate on whether its age was a factor.

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