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Report: Pilot’s Antics Caused Crash

December 13, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An Air Force Reserve pilot who died when his jet slammed into the ground in August was showing off for his in-laws, investigators said Wednesday.

Maj. Stephen Simons was flying an F-16C over his in-laws’ farm near Tulia, Texas, on Aug. 28 when he attempted a loop. He miscalculated his altitude, speed and dive angle and was unable to pull out of the loop, Air Force investigators said.

``There is clear and convincing evidence that the cause of the mishap was pilot error,″ they said in a report. ``The (pilot) breached flight discipline in attempting to execute the unauthorized acrobatic maneuvers.″

Simons, assigned to the 457th Fighter Squadron, 301st Fighter Wing at Fort Worth Naval Air Station in Texas, was returning the jet from Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah, where it had been taken for maintenance.

The flight plan did not include flying over Tulia, in the Texas Panhandle, and called for Simons to fly the jet using its instruments. But soon after takeoff he switched to manual control and changed course, investigators said.

Simons attempted the loop during a second pass over his in-laws’ home.

``He was completing his loop maneuver (and) when he got to the top of the maneuver he tried to level off so that he would be flying (upside down), but at a steady altitude. Unfortunately, he didn’t level off quite enough and when he thought he was flying level he was actually losing altitude,″ said Capt. John Hutcheson, spokesman for Air Combat Command based at Langley Air Force Base in Virgina

``He tried to complete the loop by pulling back on the stick, but by then he had lost several hundred feet of altitude and only several seconds before impact did he realize he didn’t have enough altitude to complete the loop.″

Simons and the $19 million jet crashed near a hog pen on his in-laws’ farm.

An experienced pilot, Simons, 41, had more than 3,100 flight hours, including 1,140 in the F-16. He also was a Delta Air Lines pilot.


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