An Air Force pilot became disoriented because of reduced visibility and crashed his fighter jet off the coast of England earlier this year, U.S. Force officials said Monday following the results of an accident investigation.
The pilot, identified as 1st Lt. Keith Allen, was killed on June 15, 2020, when his F-15C Eagle went down in the North Sea about 124 nautical miles northeast of RAF Lakenheath during a “routine training flight,” U.S. Air Force officials said.
“The loss of an airman is never easy and this aircraft accident was no exception,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, Lt. Allen’s commander in the 48th Fighter Wing.
The accident investigation board concluded that Lt. Allen became fixated on intercepting a simulated adversary aircraft and failed to execute a proper cockpit instrument visual scan when conditions made it necessary for him to fly by instrument rather than visual, Air Force officials said.
“Reduced visibility and a lack of discernible horizon for the pilot resulted in spatial disorientation,” officials said. “The inability of the pilot to accurately sense the pitch attitude of the aircraft due to spatial disorientation significantly contributed to the pilot’s undesirable low pitch attitude, rapidly descending altitude and the resulting mishap.”
Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Force Africa, said Lt. Allen was an “outstanding officer and a tremendous asset to the team.”
“This unfortunate accident is yet another reminder of the inherent risks airmen take on a daily basis to ensure the successes of our Air Force,” Gen. Harrigian said.
The aircraft, valued at about $45 million, was destroyed, officials said.
Lt. Allen was the assistant chief of weapons at tactics for his fighter squadron. He had been with the unit since February 2020 and is survived by his wife and parents.