F-16 Crash Caused By Bad Maintenance

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The F-16C that crashed on April 5, 2017, shortly after departure from Joint Base Andrews, was brought down by faulty reassembly of the main engine control (MEC) unit during overhaul, according to the Air Force Accident Investigation Board assigned to the mishap. The absence of a retaining ring and associated anti-rotation pin led to malfunction of a pilot valve, which caused a massive excess of fuel to be delivered to the engine. The excess fuel first manifested as uncommanded acceleration, but rapidly progressed to engine overspeed and “a severe in-flight engine fire that extended 20 to 30 feet aft of the aircraft,” according to the Air Force. No one was killed in the accident. The pilot ejected at 2000 feet after pointing the aircraft toward a wooded area 4 miles southwest of the departure airport.

This was the first flight for the single-engine fighter following installation of the overhauled MEC, which was conducted at the Air Force 552d Commodities Maintenance Squadron, Oklahoma City. During disassembly of the MEC, Air Force forensic specialists found two pieces missing, which led to the failure, along with an extra backing ring found lodged against a sealing gasket. An O-ring made of a material other than the one specified was also found in the MEC. The extra part and incorrect O-ring did not contribute to the accident, but were further evidence of a lack of parts control in the overhaul shop, according to the board. Air Force Col. David Cochran, who was the president of the Accident Investigation Board, wrote, “It is critically important to ensure that all small washers, shims, pins, clips, and retaining rings are accounted for during the MEC overhaul process, in accordance with the applicable technical order guidance. Omitting or improperly installing any of these items, as stated in the technical order, did result in failure of the MEC and aircraft loss.”

Comments (5)

WOW, attention to detail is so important in aircraft. I hope the mechanic is not punished to harshly but learns from a very expensive lesson. Thank God nobody was hurt or killed.

Posted by: bruce postlethwait | November 1, 2017 2:45 PM    Report this comment

None of the hundreds of gods that people have invented had anything to do with this. Anybody who's surprised by this has probably never been anywhere near the US military which is largely populated by people whose qualifications are basically 1) body temp around 98.6, 2) respiring, and 3) the ability to write their own names....and spell them close to correctly.

Posted by: karl schneider | November 1, 2017 6:09 PM    Report this comment

Lesson to be Learned (LTBL): The failure to apply the Lessons to be Learned (LTBL) from previous similar events, which had they been learned the current event would have been averted or made less severe, is part of the causation of the harm from the current event.

Posted by: Bill Corcoran | November 1, 2017 6:55 PM    Report this comment

Lesson to be Learned (LTBL): The failure to apply the Lessons to be Learned (LTBL) from previous similar events, which had they been learned the current event would have been averted or made less severe, is part of the causation of the harm from the current event.

Posted by: Bill Corcoran | November 1, 2017 6:56 PM    Report this comment

Overhaul error is one thing but I'd be curious about where the MEC was replaced on the engine (O or I level) and was there an engine run after the maintenance. I would think this would have showed up during an engine run. At least, that's how we used to do things.

Posted by: WILLIAM MCALLISTER | November 2, 2017 7:34 AM    Report this comment

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