COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An Air Force Thunderbird that crashed in Colorado Springs after a flyover at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony in June suffered a throttle malfunction before the crash, according to a report from Air Combat Command.
The pilot of the F-16CM Thunderbird, Maj. Alex Turner, reported engine trouble and ejected before the crash. The $29 million airplane went down in a field south of Peterson Air Force Base but was destroyed.
The Accident Investigation Board determined that Maj. Turner had started landing procedures, but “inadvertently rotated the throttle,” which cut the engine.
The board said that normally, a full throttle rotation is impossible unless its trigger is pressed, but it said the trigger was stuck in the “pressed” position because of wear and debris accumulation, according to a new release.
The board says Maj. Turner tried to restart the engine, but was unsuccessful because of how low the plane was flying. It said he put off ejecting until he had brought the plane to a safe landing zone in the field.
Air Combat Command says Maj. Turner had more than 1,200 hours flying F-16s and 1,447 total flight hours. He is still flying with the Thunderbirds.
Maj. Turner met with President Barack Obama, who was attending the Academy’s graduation, shortly after the crash. ABC News reported that the president thanked the pilot for his service and said he was relieved Turner wasn’t seriously injured.