USAF Report: Wet Runway Contributed To Thunderbird F-16 Crash In Dayton

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USAF Thunderbird #8 Crash in Dayton, OH
Photo via AP: Dayton Daily News

US Air Force officials stated that “excess speed and insufficient stopping distance” on a soaked runway resulted in the crash of a two seat F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the USAF Thunderbirds in Dayton, Ohio this past June.

Capt. Erik “Speedy” Gonsalves, Thunderbird #8, was in command of the jet at the time of the incident. Sgt. Kenneth Cordova, a maintenance crew member, was also on board at the time. The two were on a “familiarization flight” over Dayton while the team was in town to perform at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Airshow.

Upon landing, the jet slid off the runway and into the grass, causing the aircraft to flip.

The report mentions that Gonsalves missed his first landing approach and that water had restricted the view of his head-up display or HUD. This forced him to rely solely on cockpit instruments. On the second approach, the report claims that Gonsalves focused more on the runway than his airspeed, contributing to the crash. The Thunderbird F-16 touched down with only 6,130 feet of runway left. Seven to eight thousand feet of runway is required to land safely on wet pavement. The aircraft exited the runway and came to rest upside down in the grass nearby. It was destroyed in the incident.

An audio recording between Air Traffic Control and Thunderbird 8, obtained by the Dayton Daily News last month, revealed that the pilot was warned of “extreme precipitation” in the area and that ATC told him he was “flying at your own risk.”

In a statement, Air Combat Command spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton said “Capt. Gonsalves is traveling with the team and narrating shows, but he is not medically cleared to fly at this time.”

USAF Thunderbird F-16 Involved In Mishap At 2017 Dayton Air Show

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USAF Thunderbirds 7 and 8 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010

AirshowStuff has learned that an F-16 belonging to the USAF Thunderbirds has been involved in an incident at the Dayton Air Show in Dayton, OH.

According to eyewitnesses, the incident occurred after the F-16 landed and was taxiing. The plane went off the runway and is currently in the grass. Law enforcement in the Dayton area are confirming than a Thunderbird jet is “on its top.”

This picture, posted by Dayton Daily News shows emergency crews responding to the incident scene.

The pilot of the jet at the time was Thunderbird #8, Capt. Erik “Speedy” Gonsalves. Tech Sargent Kenneth Cordova was the backseater. The mission was on a familiarization flight for Tech Sargent Cordova.

Both occupants of the plane were transported to the hospital. Thunderbird #1 says that injuries are non-life threatening. Tech Sargent Cordova had no visible injuries and is doing “just fine.” Thunderbird #8 had lacerations and injuries to his leg but is in stable to good condition and doing well.

There was heavy rain and wind in the area at the time of the incident. We’ll post more details on our forums as they become available.

The plane took off around 10:30 am this morning. Weather at the time met the criteria for the flight. He flew an instrument procedure approach to recover to the base. Mishap happened after landing on Runway 6L.

An accident safety board will investigate and the results will be made public at a later time. The Thunderbirds will NOT perform on Saturday at the Dayton Airshow. Sunday’s performance is to be determined.


2015 Vectren Dayton Air Show Entertains Despite Rain

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Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

Two jet teams soared over Dayton, OH this month (June 20-21) as the 2015 Vectren Dayton Air Show hosted both the USAF Thunderbirds and the Breitling Jet Team. The real story, however, was the weather. The week leading up to the show was soured by the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill, which brought low clouds and soaking rains to the area. Saturday looked to be a total washout, and Sunday also was far from guaranteed. Luckily the performers and show officials were able to work around the weather to put on an entertaining event!

USAF Thunderbirds - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet Demonstration Team - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

Saturday started out with a lot of low clouds and a constant rain. The morning was a great chance to visit the nearby National Museum of the United States Air Force. The rain let up in the early afternoon and Sean D. Tucker started off the weekend’s flying after a ground run by Shockwave. Only a few acts were skipped; The US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet demonstration team, the USCG HH-65 Dolphin, Breitling Jet Team, and the Thunderbirds were all able to perform after the airspace flight restrictions were extended later into the afternoon. The crowd was understandably small, but the grounds were still turned to mud by the foot traffic. The grass parking lots were also a muddy disaster, and many cars got stuck. Show officials moved quickly overnight to make alternative arrangements. Paved parking lots nearby were put into use, and shuttle buses were brought in to service them. The show even worked with a local towing company and car wash to make sure that any stuck cars were removed and washed for free. That’s fantastic customer service!

Sunday started off hot and humid. Scattered showers and thunderstorms were in the forecast, but neither ended up anywhere nearby. The clouds stayed lower though, and forced low shows by the Super Hornet and Thunderbirds. The crowd filled in very slowly, surely due to the confusion over the parking and the choke point of the shuttle buses. The show has been forced in recent years to face the harsh reality of static display availability, and the ramp that historically has overflowed with aircraft was rather sparse due to the budget situation. They did spring for some warbirds at least, like the C-46 Commando “Tinker Belle”, and even brought in a pair of A-4 Skyhawks owned by Draken International. In order to give the fans something extra to look at in recent years, the show has set up the Performer Pit Row, an area for the flying performers to park near the spectators.

Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015 From AboveDraken International A-4 Skyhawk - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

The flying portion was noticeably shorter than usual, but it was actually a welcome change. Instead of endless repeat performances and repetitive acts, it was a sort of highlight reel with a very good variety of performances. Matt Younkin, the Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco, and the Golden Knights (get an inside look at their performance here) were able to perform on Sunday after sitting out Saturday’s show. The DAV’s B-25 “Panchito” even got added to the lineup as a surprise act, and was given over 10 minutes to do flybys in front of the crowd. The shorter lineup also meant less time in the hot and humid air!

Jack Link's Screamin' Sasquatch Jet Waco Biplane - Vectren Dayton Air Show 2015US Army Golden Knights - Vectren Dayton Air Show 2015

This was our first look at the Breitling Jet Team, and they were thoroughly enjoyable. The team is based in France, but is touring around North America for the summer to advertise for their sponsor. The team flies their seven L-39s as hard anyone else, and the routine is a nice mix of large formation grace and solo aircraft high speed maneuvers. For their final maneuver, six of the team split formation and fire flares from their aircraft. This is a rarity at US shows and was well received by the crowd. The entire routine lasted about 25 minutes, although the team cut it down to 15 minutes on Saturday to make way for the Thunderbirds. It is a shame that Breitling has canceled several of their remaining Midwest appearances this year, including AirVenture in Oshkosh.

USAF Thunderbirds, Breitling Jet Team, and US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet Demonstration Team - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015B-25 Mitchell "Panchito" - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015

Overall the show was very good, and only the weather could have made it better. Major credit is due to the organizers for solving the parking lot issue when many other shows may have canceled. Hopefully next year they will be able to expand the static and flying lineup a bit, but that is partially out of the shows control. The Vectren Dayton Air Show will return on June 18-19, 2016 and feature the US Navy Blue Angels!

Breitling Jet Team - Vectren Dayton Airshow 2015