Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, will start visiting flying wings around the country Wednesday as pat of an effort to increase safety and training after a string of fighter jet crashes.
Holmes’ visits began two days after an F-16C Fighting Falcon from the 49th Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico crashed while landing. Its pilot successfully ejected and was treated for minor injuries. ACC spokeswoman Alexi Worley said in an email that Holmes’ visits will continue through next week, and he will discuss training and safety issues with commanders.
Eglin Air Force Base in Florida had a pair of crashes within days of one another in May — an F-22A on May 15 and an F-35A four days later. Both of those pilots successfully ejected.
On June 15, 1st Lt. Kenneth “Kage” Allen, from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath in England, died when his F-15 crashed into the North Sea.
And on July 1, 1st Lt. David Schmitz of the 77th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force in South Carolina died when his F-16CM Fighting Falcon crashed.
The Air Force saw a fleetwide decline in the most serious manned aircraft mishaps in fiscal 2019, but the number of serious mishaps increased for fighter and attack aircraft.
Worley said Holmes is looking at current and historical data for trends or issues in common with these crashes.
Holmes is also talking about these crashes with other commanders of major commands, Worley said. And ACC has sent updated guidance and safety information to flying units.
A series of one-day safety stand-downs across all flying and maintenance wings has given the Air Force several clues on how to correct a string of troubling — and sometimes fatal — aviation crashes and other mishaps, the service said Monday.
On Tuesday, Holloman carried out what it called a temporary and partial stand-down of flying operations after the crash to make sure the air field was safe and the air crew was well.
Holloman said Wednesday that there were no indications of fleet-wide issues, and normal flying operations resumed that day.
Col. Ryan Keeney, commander of the 49th Wing, praised the pilot of the F-16 for how he handled Monday’s crash.
“The pilot did exactly what he was supposed to do in this situation,” Keeney said. “He followed the emergency procedures he learned in training, where we focus on teaching the students to do the ordinary extraordinarily well.”