The F-15C disaster, in which Lieutenant Kenneth “Kage” Allen was killed, was the result of pilots’ focus on intercepting the simulated enemy aircraft and not taking visual scans of instruments in the cockpit during the flight through cloud cover and experiencing spatial disorientation. Air Accident Investigation Commission report published on November 23, 2020 (Facebook)
This story has been updated.
Confusion and reduced visibility were factors that contributed to the death of a US Air Force pilot who crashed his F-15C fighter off the coast of England earlier this year, service officials said in a statement on Monday.
Air Force Lieutenant Kenneth “Kage” Allen, 27, with the 48th RAF Fighter Wing from Lakenheath, was killed when his plane crashed into the North Sea approximately 140 miles northeast of base during an exercise on June 15.
The crash was the result of “fixation of the pilot on the interception of the simulated enemy aircraft and failure to perform visual scans of instruments in the cockpit” while flying through cloud cover and experiencing spatial disorientation, the Air Force Accident Investigation Commission report reads.
Multiple cloud layers up to 25,000 feet were reported at the time of the disaster. Other pilots in the area said the horizon was “difficult, if not impossible to see below” 9,000 feet, the report said.
Allen was considered an inexperienced pilot with just around 271 hours of flight time. More than half of them were clocked in the F-15C simulator.
On the day of the crash, it was flying as a No. 4 jet in an air-to-air exercise four out of six.
On a flight east at 20,300 feet, Allen was instructed to make a sharp right back west and look for an enemy plane at a lower altitude.
He made a turn, simulated firing a missile into another plane, and continued descending to 12,000 feet. When told his simulated impact was a likely miss, Allen made a steep left turn to intercept the plane, falling at one point to a vertical speed of 38,800 feet per minute.
At about 1,000 feet, Allen outmaneuvered his plane to nearly wing level and pulled out 8.2G gasses, apparently trying to get his jet out of the water, the report said.
Allen seemed to be focused on intercepting the second plane, visually or with his radar, “and did not monitor the altitude, airspeed and cockpit instruments,” said accident committee chairman Major General Dean Tremps in the report.
As he left the low cloud layer at about 1,000 feet with “visible horizon and” ground momentum “of the rapidly approaching ocean, he sensed his position and tried to retrieve the plane, but was unable to do so due to his speed and altitude Tremps wrote in your opinion summary.
Allen hit the water at about 651 miles per hour. He was too short to throw out successfully, and there was no evidence that he was trying to throw himself out, Tremps said.
The plane, estimated at $ 45 million, was destroyed.
The Air Force immediately launched a search and rescue operation, but it was hampered by poor visibility. The coast guard forces of Great Britain and the navy assisted in the search.
About two hours after the crash, the teams located an oil slick and a jagged pilot’s life raft. Other items recovered from the debris field included a pilot rescue kit and an unopened parachute. Allen’s body was recovered on the same day, according to the report.
The report ruled out airplane crash, component failure, and maintenance issues as contributing factors to the crash.
“Lieutenant Allen was an outstanding officer and a great asset to the team,” General Jeff Harrigian, commander of the US Air Force in Europe and the Air Force in Africa said in a statement. “No words can compensate for such a painful and sudden loss.”
The commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, Colonel Jason Camilletti, said the wing and Allen’s 493rd Fighter Squadron were “truly touched by the tremendous support from families, friends and partners around the world in our time of mourning.”