On October 14, 2015, an F/A-18 jet with one pilot on board was flying in airspace shared by the Swiss and French for training exercises. During that time it was crashed in a field near the village of Glamondans, east of the French city of Besançon.
The accident occurred late in the morning during a training exercise with two F-5 Tiger planes, Swiss government said in a statement on Tuesday outlining their assessment of the event.
Further, a detailed investigation revealed that the jet’s left engine had stalled, causing it to lose power. The plane had rolled to the left and rapidly lost altitude. The pilot had been unable to stabilize the plane and had activated his ejector seat several moments later. He injured himself slightly on landing.
“The pilot ejected without having applied the necessary emergency measures required in the event of an engine stall and did not carry out or at least did not correctly carry the manoeuvres specified when a plane starts to roll or lurch,” it stated.
Other reasons for the crash, such as a technical failure, pilot health or intervention of a third party could all be ruled out, says investigation.
The pilot could have reduced the speed of the affected engine and lowered its pressure, which would have prevented it from stalling and allowing him to regain control, the authorities said. The pilot, who had over 3,000 hours of flying experience, is also accused of not having recognised safety flying altitudes.
According to swissinfo, on Thursday, the army announced that charges would be brought against the pilot. In his capacity as “mission commander”, he failed to respect the rules for minimum flight altitudes for combat and training exercises. Both altitudes were too low, according to the charge sheet.
The pilot is accused of non-compliance with basic security rules that apply in exceptional cases. He did not activate the emergency alert system until 24 seconds after the malfunction in the jet’s left engine had appeared.
The case will be brought before a military court; until then, the pilot is presumed innocent.
The accident is one of several involving Swiss fighter jets in recent years. In August 2016, another F/A-18 crashed into the mountains in central Switzerland. Two F-5 jets from the Patrouille Suisse aerobatic display team collided in the Netherlands in June the same year. Another F/A-18 was written off after crashing near Lake Lucerne in 2013.
In September this year, Swiss voters will have their say in a referendum on whether the air force will be given some CHF6 billion ($6.1 billion) to buy a new fleet of fighter jets. The army says the current fleet of F/A-18s and Tigers is aging, and needs replacement before 2030 at the latest.