Complete Preliminary NTSB Report on F-16/Cessna Collision

  • Jul 18, 2015 6:46pm GMT

From the NTSB:

On July 7, 2015, at 1100 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 150M, N3601V, and a Lockheed-Martin F-16CM, operated by the U.S. Air Force (USAF), collided in midair near Moncks Corner, South Carolina. The Cessna was destroyed during the collision, and both the private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The damaged F-16 continued to fly for an additional 3 minutes until the pilot activated the airplane's ejection system. The F-16 was destroyed following the subsequent collision with terrain and post-impact fire, while the pilot landed safely and was uninjured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the Cessna, while the F-16 was operating on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The Cessna departed from Berkley County Airport (MKS), Moncks Corner, South Carolina, at 1057, and was destined for Grand Strand Airport (CRE), North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; the personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The F-16 had departed from Shaw Air Force Base (SSC), Sumter, South Carolina about 1020.

According to the USAF, after departing from SSC, the F-16 proceeded to Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR), Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the pilot conducted two practice instrument approaches before continuing the flight to Charleston Air Force Base/International Airport (CHS), Charleston, South Carolina. According to preliminary air traffic control (ATC) radar and voice communication data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the F-16 pilot contacted the approach controller at CHS about 1052 and requested to perform a practice tactical air navigation system (TACAN) instrument approach to runway 15. The controller subsequently instructed the F-16 pilot to fly a heading of 260 degrees to intercept the final approach course. At 1055, the controller instructed the F-16 pilot to descend from his present altitude of 6,000 feet to 1,600 feet. About that time, the F-16 was located about 34 nautical miles northeast of CHS.

At 1057:41, a radar target displaying a visual flight rules transponder code of 1200, and later correlated to be the accident Cessna, appeared in the vicinity of the departure end of runway 23 at MKS, at an indicated altitude of 200 feet. The Cessna continued its climb, and began tracking generally southeast over the next 3 minutes. For the duration of its flight, the pilot of the Cessna did not contact CHS approach control, nor was he required to do so. At 1100:18, the controller advised the pilot of the F-16, "traffic 12 o'clock, 2 miles, opposite direction, 1,200 [feet altitude] indicated, type unknown." The F-16 pilot responded and advised the controller that he was “looking" for the traffic. At 1100:26, the controller advised the F-16 pilot, "turn left heading 180 if you don't have that traffic in sight." The pilot responded by asking, "confirm 2 miles?" Eight seconds later, the controller stated, "if you don't have that traffic in sight turn left heading 180 immediately." Over the next 18 seconds, the track of the F-16 began turning southerly.