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Pilot’s Urgent Need Leads to Air Force Fighter Crash

October 28, 1993

BERLIN (AP) _ When an American pilot’s F-16 fighter crashed into a barren Turkish hillside last fall, there was no mention of urination.

But the truth is out: The veteran pilot lost control while trying to relieve himself in the jet’s cramped cockpit, the U.S. Air Force confirmed Thursday.

Lt. Col. Don Snelgrove ejected safely in the crash on Sept. 8, 1992, and no one was hurt on the ground. But $18 million in airplane was lost.

The Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military’s unofficial newspaper, published the story Thursday after getting the accident report. An Air Force spokesman at Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany confirmed the details.

Snelgrove was on a four-hour mission to patrol the no-fly zone established over northern Iraq to protect Iraqi Kurds. He got out a ″piddle-pack,″ a plastic container with a dehydrated sponge inside, set his F-16C on automatic pilot and undid the lap belt.

As he adjusted the seat upward, the belt buckle wedged between the seat and the stick that controls the aircraft, pushing the stick to the right and sending the plane into a spin. He tried to regain control as the jet plunged 33,000 feet, but had to eject when it got to within 2,000 feet of the ground.

Since the accident, it has become standard procedure for an F-16 pilot who needs to relieve himself to loosen but not unfasten the lap belt, said the Ramstein spokesman, Staff Sgt. Charles Ramey.

He said the accident report didn’t assess any blame and suggested the incident had not hurt Snelgrove’s career.

Snelgrove, deputy commander for operations with the 526th Fighter Squadron at Ramstein, is rated a master pilot and has 2,500 hours of flight time since he began flying for the Air Force in 1976, Ramey said.

The pilot declined The Associated Press’ request for an interview.

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