F-16 Encounter Angers Pilots

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The FAA says it will likely investigate the complaints of a couple of pilots who say they were intercepted and shadowed, at close range, by an F-16 over Arizona earlier this month. Pilatus PC-12 pilot Patrick McCall and Beech Premier pilot Scott Laromee have both filed near-collision reports with the agency after they say they were aggressively pursued by an F-16 on March 21 in the Gladden Military Operations Area, a training area used by pilots from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix. The area is open for use by civilian aircraft. In a podcast interview with AVweb, McCall said that when his TCAS activated about 10 a.m. that day while he was cruising at 16,500 (VFR with flight following) he ended up having to dive his aircraft as the target kept closing on him. The target followed him in the dive and when McCall leveled at about 14,000 feet, he was amazed by the view from his side window. “I then looked to my left side of the aircraft and saw an F16 aircraft off of my left wing,” he said in a written report sent to the FAA. “The F16 was no more than 20 feet off of my left wing.” AVweb contacted the media relations department of Luke Air Force Base on Friday and provided copies of both McCall’s and Laromee’s complaints but military officials did not respond to our request for comment by our deadline on Sunday.

Laromee declined detailed comment on the incident but he did confirm that it occurred and that he is demanding answers. “There are a lot of people getting involved in this. It’s not going to get swept under,” he told AVweb. According to McCall, after pacing his aircraft for a few moments, the F-16 accelerated vertically. A few minutes later, he said, he heard another pilot on the radio reporting a TCAS alert and announcing he was starting the vertical climb commanded by the TCAS gear to avoid what appeared to be an imminent collision. McCall said the other pilot then reported an F-16 pacing him at a range of only about 10 feet. The two pilots exchanged contact information over the radio and both reported the incident to the FAA when they were back on the ground. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the reports haven’t made their way through the bureaucracy yet but, assuming they do, the agency will look into the complaints. “The FAA would certainly want to know about an alleged incident like this. We likely would do an investigation, although the FAA does not have the authority to take action against a military pilot,” Gregor said. “The most we could do would be to send our investigation package to the military and rely on them to take appropriate action.” McCall said he’s contacted the military and is not satisfied with the response he received.

Related Content:
Audio interview with Pilatus pilot Patrick McCall