A new investigative report released Monday suggests that a Colorado pilot based out of Shaw Air Force mistakenly descended too low and too quickly, eventually crashing during a landing approach in December.
30-year-old Capt. William DuBois of the 77th Fighter Squadron died on December 1 after his F-16 crashed while trying to land at a classified base in the Mideast, the Air Force said. The Pentagon says it does not normally name the locations of its flights in the region, due to security concerns, but added the crash did not occur in Iraq or Syria.
The report from an accident investigation board noted DuBois and a wingman had taken off early that morning to conduct night airstrikes on Islamic State fighters in the region. The wingman quickly radioed about a landing gear door malfunction and the pair intended to return to base.
The report noted that pilots tended to use an unorthodox landing method when approaching the base at night, due to a lack of radar. They would start the approach later than the guidelines recommended and would rely on instruments to land the aircraft more quickly, according to the report. The board said the move became standard among pilots, but violated published procedures.
The report said DuBois, a New Castle Colorado native, had flown 18 prior missions, including five night flights, prior to the crash.
It stated he turned to intercept the approach course at 2,300 mean feet above sea level, far below the minimum 4,000 feet. The report continued that DuBois likely never realized he was flying too low when he started his descent to the runway. He apparently tried to pull up shortly before the crash, but it was too late. The report stated he crashed at 4:58 a.m.