U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa officials released the results of their investigation into the Jan. 28 crash of an F-16 Fighting Falcon over the Adriatic Sea, resulting in the death of the pilot on board.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the board president, Brig. Gen. Derek P. Rydholm, found clear and convincing evidence that the pilot suffered symptoms of spatial disorientation, due to a combination of weather conditions, the pilot’s use of night vision goggles, the aircraft’s attitude and high rate of speed, and the pilot’s breakdown in visual scan. The pilot ejected, but did not survive the crash.
At the time of the incident, the pilot, Capt. Lucas Gruenther, was a member of the 555th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy. He was promoted to the grade of major posthumously.
The convening authority, USAFE-AFAFRICA Vice Commander Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, approved the board president’s report without comments.
The primary purpose of the board was to provide a releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. An executive summary and full narrative of the report is available on the Air Force Legal Operations Agency Claims and Tort Litigation website at http://usaf.aib.law.af.mil/ . The full report is available by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request. An electronic request may be submitted at http://www.foia.af.mil.