Pilot error blamed for Swiss Hornet crash

A Swiss F/A-18C Hornet. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Swiss F/A-18C Hornet. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Pilot error was the cause of the fatal crash of a Swiss F/A-18D Hornet on 23 October 2013, a military investigation concluded on 23 June 2014. Both the pilot and his passenger in the backseat – a doctor of the Institute of Aviation Medicine Dübendorf – died in the crash.

The crash happened shortly after the aircraft took off from the airbase of Meiringen, accompanied by another F/A-18. A few minutes later, while flying close to Alpnach near the city of Luzern, the flight was faced with a cloud front and rainy conditions. The flight leader decided to return to Meiringen and began a turn maneuver. Shortly after, the accident aircraft impacted a cliff, killing both occupants instantly. The second plane landed safely at Meiringen.

According to the investigating team, the pilot was under increasing pressure and misjudged the space he needed to turn the aircraft around. He also waited to long before starting the turn. Other possible causes have been ruled out.

The crash was the second Hornet crash in Switzerland. The first crash happened on 7 April 1998, when a relatively new aircraft came down near Crans-sur-Sierre. This was also a double seat F/A-18D Hornet, and also both crew members were killed.

The Swiss Air Force still has 32 Boeing F/A-18 Hornets in service. A recent government effort to purchase 22 Saab JAS39E/F Gripen fighters to serve alongside the Hornets, was halted by a federal vote in which 53 percent of the voters said ‘no’ to the purchase.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

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