NTSB: Fighter jet engine quits before crash in Arizona
A new report says the pilot of a fighter jet operated by a military contractor that crashed in the desert outside Phoenix last month reported a fuel problem and then an engine failure. plane before ejecting.
The French-built Mirage F1 took off from Luke Air Force Base in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale on February 10 as part of a mission to help train military fighter pilots from the training base .
The NTSB report says the pilot was flying with another contractor aircraft operating from Luke as aggressors, aircraft that simulate attacks on competing fighters. The two Mirage supersonic fighters split up to work in a military operations area northwest of Phoenix, and near the end of the activity the pilot reported that there was an anomaly in two fuel gauges on the cockpit.
The pilot left the practice area when he reached minimum fuel levels and was returning to Luke when he said he had lost fuel pressure and the engine had stopped, according to the report from the NTSB.
The pilot told investigators he attempted to restart the jet’s engine, but that effort failed. When he determined he was too far from Luke to get the plane safely onto the runway, he steered the jet into an open desert area and ejected.
The pilot was slightly injured and the plane crashed about 26 kilometers northwest of the base. The wreckage has been recovered and will be examined by investigators trying to determine the cause of the accident.
The pilot’s identity has not been released, but he was flying for Airborne Tactical Advantage Co., a Newport News, Va., company that contracts with the military. The company known as ATAC is one of a growing number of contractors flying aircraft to help train military aviators and operating the F1 and other older military jets. It provides aggressor aircraft to help military fighter pilots learn their trade as well as other military services.
The crash was the second involving a contractor-operated Mirage F1 in the past year. A plane operated by another contractor crashed in Las Vegas last year as the pilot arrived to land at Nellis Air Force Base. The pilot – Nicholas Hunter Hamilton, 43, of Las Vegas – died.
The May 24 crash happened after Hamilton had an in-flight emergency, and the plane crashed into a neighborhood, bursting into flames. Hamilton ejected shortly before the plane touched down.
Hamilton, a retired US Air Force pilot, worked for military contractor Draken International.
The Mirage F1 is an all-weather, single-engine supersonic fighter that can also perform ground attack and reconnaissance missions. It was designed in the late 1960s and served with the French Air Force before being retired in the mid-2010s. Other nations have also operated the jet.
ATAC bought 63 retired French F1 jets and took possession of the last in 2019, according to a post on the company’s Facebook page.
Another military contractor plane crash occurred in 2015 in southern Arizona, killing Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony T. DuBeau. The 23-year-old from Kenosha, Wis., was in a van providing security surveillance for a construction crew working along the runway at Marine Corps Air Station-Yuma.
A final report from the National Transportation Safety Board said the pilot of the BAE Systems Hawk jet took off at too low a speed on March 11, 2015. The British-built jet flying on a mission for the Air Force lurched, veered to the left side of the base track and eventually hit the pickup.