USAF F-16 Down In New Mexico; Pilot Safe


A U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot has been released from medical treatment with “minor injuries” after ejecting from the aircraft near Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) in New Mexico yesterday (April 30). The single-seat F-16, assigned to the 49th Wing based at Holloman AFB, went down around 11:50 a.m. local time, according to the Air Force.

The crash occurred near White Sands National Park about 7 miles from the base, near the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range.

According to a report in Air Force Times, Holloman is a training hub for F-16 pilots, graduating an average of 180 candidates per year. Yesterday’s crash marks the fourth involving USAF F-16s within the past 12 months, the other three occurring in South Korea. The USAF news source cited an average of three F-16 losses per year over the past 10 years. The service currently operates 841 Fighting Falcons, with plans to reduce that number to 830 during fiscal year 2025, according to the report.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


    • I’ve flown in the F-16 … all ya gotta do is find the yellow handle and pull while yelling, “YeeHaw ..” How much training is required for that?
      The F-16 has an Auto ‘Ground Collision Avoidance System’ in case the pilot gets GLOC (G induced Loss of Consciousness); I’m curious what happened here. It had to be loss of control at low altitude or an engine failure. The “top notch training” obviously did NOT work?

      • I think you are lying, or you are a sour grapes washout. I can’t imagine anyone who has flown any fighter speculating on about the quality of training and speculating over what caused this, and you seem to have neither knowledge or respect for the accident investigation process. Loss of control or engine failure: good guesses, Jethro. Neither have anything to do with what you say here.

        • Note the phrase “flown in”. The presence of that preposition tells you all you need to know about the veracity of the comment.

        • Play it again and pay attention to the heavy breathing on hot mike, Rush. That’s NOT this evolution but … it is common when pulling a lot of G’s in those things. The F-16 has a 30 deg aft inclined ejection seat to increase G force tolerance by 50% (cosine of the angle) but it’s still work to stay focused on flying during ACM. That’s why his wingmates were yelling on the radio to get his attention. The GCAS system would have taken over momentarily but he regained his composure before it did. The F-16 — in the very beginning — was called the “Lightweight Fighter” (LWF) because it is. As such, the thing is very nimble when not laden with stores and can easily see 9 G’s.

          • Auto GCAS was not an original piece of software/equipment in the aircraft. It is a relatively recent development. Have all F-16’s been retrofitted? I’m asking if this a major mod/depot level update or can it be done at squadron level. If the former, not every a/c may have the equipment.

          • Cannot speak to when GCAS was integrated into the jets; I served on the F-16 from when it was the LWF until ’85 before it was put in. My GUESS is that it’s a depot level item, Jet Jock. As to “Lawn Dart,” yup … some pilots didn’t want to fly them for that reason due to engine failures. I’ve experienced 9+ G’s in the F-15 … it IS tough. It should be easier in the F-16 because of the seat inclination. Because it’s a single engine airplane, if the engine fails, you only have one choice although one pilot DID dead stick one into NAS Glenview with the help of his wingman.

  1. “The service currently operates 841 Fighting Falcons, with plans to reduce that number to 830”
    Seems to me if they just wait about 3 years they will get down to 830 aircraft through natural attrition. All without the fuss and expense of a decommissioning program.

    • Sure. The potential loss of life and property is worth waiting for the stats to play out. Makes sense.

  2. Hope the pilot gives a bottle of their favorite liquor to the parachute rigger and seat technician after his successful ejection. That was an old way of saying Thank You.

    • I’m sure glad that the Army Airborne did not have that tradition – after 52 jumps I would have gone broke…

  3. “The service currently operates 841 Fighting Falcons, with plans to reduce that number to 830 during fiscal year 2025, according to the report.”

    I’d say they’re on track.

  4. I’m just curious — I wonder which was older – the pilot or the jet? Age creep in our equipment, and the associated funding for maintenance and operations of older aircraft will be an increasingly serious challenge. When my son was flying legacy USMC F/A-18’s, all the jets were older then he was. And that was more than a few years ago. Best wishes to our young F-16 pilot for getting out safely. That’s a trend I hope we can keep above the funding line.

    • Now you’re making ME feel old, kc. The F-18 started life as the USAF/Northrop F-17 during the Lightweight Fighter flyoff program at Edward AFB in the mid-70’s. The Navy liked it so it became the F-18 later. Weight and systems growth forced a redesign into the Rhino versions. Navy jets live a hard life.