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A pilot’s poor judgment along with a lapse in flight discipline caused an A-10 Thunderbolt to fly into two cables over a Missouri lake, causing about $700,000 damage to the jet and unknown damage to the public utility lines, Air Force Reserve Command announced today.
The Warthog, assigned to the Reserve 442nd Fighter Wing out of Whiteman Air Force Base, was flying as part of a two-plane, low-altitude tactical navigation training mission on May 22 near Stockton Lake, about 90 miles south of the base.
As the jets approached the lake from the southwest, the pilot of one of the A-10s descended below the minimum altitude of 300 feet above ground level, according to an Air Force release on the report. The flight leader radioed the other pilot to tell him that he was approaching power lines at the lake. The other pilot acknowledged the radio call, but continued flying low.
Flying just about 140 feet above ground level, the mishap pilot flew into two protective cables that are strung above the power lines. The jet sustained extensive damage to its right horizontal stabilizer, vertical tail and rudder, along with weapons and suspension equipment under the left wing, according to the release. The pilot was able to land the jet at Whiteman.
Total damage to the A-10 is valued at $698,858.69, and cost to the repair cables over the lake is not yet known, according to the release.
The AIB report found that the pilot focused his attention on a boat in the lake and didn’t see the cables. He “demonstrated his complacency” by continuing to descend over the lake and ignoring altitude advisories, and he failed to acknowledge a confirmation that he saw the cables after the flight leader advised him about them, according to the release.
“The accident board president found convincing evidence that the cause of the mishap was the pilot’s poor judgment and lapse in flight discipline that resulted in violation of flight rules and operating procedures relating to minimum altitudes,” the release states.