Trigger Design, Pilot Error Cited In Accidental School Strafing

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Pilot error, a poorly designed pilot-vehicle interface, and the lack of a published safety procedure were found as causes for 27 ammunition rounds being accidentally expended by an F-16 during a training mission at the Warren Grove Range, N.J., on Nov. 3, according to an accident report released Friday by the Air National Guard. Some of the rounds struck a New Jersey school four miles south of the range, but it was about 11 p.m. and no schoolchildren were in the building. No one was injured in the incident. Air National Guard officials said that as a result of the investigation, changes in procedures and aircraft software will be made to avoid any further incidents. Additionally, aircraft at the range will be restricted as to when they can arm weapons, and flight plans will be altered to point weapons toward unpopulated areas. The trigger is designed to shoot a laser at the target when it is partially depressed, and shoot bullets when fully depressed. The pilot had reportedly been warned before the flight to be careful not to use the laser prematurely, but did so anyway. The F-16 was from the District of Columbia Air National Guard's 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.