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Peterson AFB, CO– On 2 JUN, 2016, F-16C (91-0392) crashed on landing approach when “Something went wrong.” The aircraft was assigned to the 57th Aerial Demonstration Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nevada. The aircraft was Thunderbird 6, Opposing Solo. The aircraft was named “Sweet Baby Aurora 6”. Major Alex Turner safely ejected from the aircraft after steering it into an open field. Early reports say that he injured his arm in the ejection.
The Thunderbirds were returning to Peterson AFB after performing a fly-over as part of the graduation ceremonies at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. President Obama was also there for the graduation and stopped his motorcade to thank Major Turner for his service. A Blackhawk (HH-64) assigned to Presidential security conduced Search and Rescue operations to recover Major Turner before returning to the Presidential detail.
This crash comes on the heels of a fatal Blue Angel crash earlier in the day near Smyrna, Tennessee. Navy officials confirm that the pilot of the F/A-18 was killed in the crash apparently unable to eject shortly after the plane had taken off.
The Thunderbirds have had two other mishaps since 2003.
14 September 2003: Captain Chris Stricklin, flying Thunderbird No. 6 (F-16), crashed during an airshow at Mountain Home AFB.
20 August 2005: The Thunderbirds temporarily grounded themselves pending an investigation into a minor mid-air incident during the Chicago Air & Water Show.
Obama arrived late to the graduation. He also ran long delivering his speech, while the Thunderbirds orbited out of sight waiting to do the final fly over. This had led to reports that the cause of the crash was fuel stagnation (running out of gas). Along with the mishap aircraft, all was not well with the rest of the team. Witnesses at Peterson AFB claim that one T-bird flamed out in the chocks on recovery and at least one more flamed out on the taxiway after departing the runway.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexander Rodriguez, a U.S. Air Force firefighter stationed in San Angelo, Texas, who was visiting with his family, said he raced from his brother’s house after hearing “a few loud bangs” and saw the plane gliding close to the ground before impact.
If I remember my F-16 engine class, when the engine stagnates due to fuel the compressor stalls. This stall (or multiple stalls) can be heard as a loud bang or series of bangs..
— James Dougherty (@DoughertyKMGH) June 3, 2016
Readers may note no fire damage on aircraft.
Is the discoloration aft of the cockpit due to the EPU firing?
Thunderbirds pilot Maj. Alex Turner and his flight commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Hammond, have been fired and their careers ruined. (more)
I want some F-16 pilots watch the following video. It shows the HUD during the mishap. I’d like to know what the fuel state was in the HUD.
WATCH: Cockpit and HUD video of Thunderbird 6 crash on June 2, 2016 https://t.co/zFIqW9mEoU
— Walt Chamberlain (@walt313) December 16, 2016
Capt. Mike Crandall was off station that day , but he and his wingman “snuck in ” under the weather. I was expediting that day and picked him up at the airplane. He asked about our jet (84-1292). I told him that it was in the garage (phase inspection). As I dropped him off at ops he said “Remind me about nose art when I get back.” Those were the last words I heard Mike say.
Back in ops, LtCol. Rick Huss told Mike that Capt. Bob McCormack still needed to be upgraded to flight lead and Mike volunteered to take him up. Bob was to fly 1395 and Mike 1401 the only two aircraft refueled.
On start up Bob had hydraulic indication problems and we fixed them. Mike was in the other flight so I didn’t know he was flying.
The aircraft were configured without external fuel tanks so their flight time was less than a hour. After an hour passed, we figured they “weathered in” at some other bases as it was common. After 90 minutes I was radioed to meet with my supervisor. He asked for me to quietly get the maintenance forms for 395. Fearing the worst I asked him if the aircraft was lost. he said “Just get the forms and don’t discuss anything with anyone.”
The aircraft had collided. Bob was thrown (not ejected) out of the jet. He landed in a farmer’s field with a broken back. A farmer’s daughter (yes this is true) picked him up in the family car as he was walking toward the farm house. He phoned in the base to report the collision.
The squadron was monitoring the SAR net, listening to the search effort. There were two beepers going off. In the other room, Capt. Karl Gruner was listening to German radio hoping for a news report. When Bob phoned, they then began looking for Mike. It was then that German news reported that two F-16’s had in fact collided, resulting one pilot dead and one severely injured. That is how we found out that Mike was dead. The Polizei had found his body, he had had a good chute but he died in the collision.
I went home not knowing that. Knowing two jets were down, I prayed the crew chief prayer that all pilots were safe. The next morning I read in the Stars and Stripes, that Captain Michael A. Crandall had died the night before.
I sat in my stairwell and cried .
Mike was my pilot and my friend. He is buried at the Academy. Every now and then I see cadets serving at Nellis AFB. If I get a chance to talk I tell them that when they are struggling and don’t think they can hack it, to visit Mike. We lost many, many friends during the Cold War. Let no one forget that there was and still is great valor on “routine training missions”.
Mikey is at the Air Force Academy,
Colorado Springs, Colorado.