An engine failure at takeoff led to Monday’s deadly crash of the Greek Air Force F-16, which killed 11 personnel at a NATO air base in Spain, French air chief Gen. Denis Mercier said on Thursday.
“What we know is that the F-16 crew, fairly quickly, right after the takeoff, tried to eject,” Mercier told journalists. Nine of the personnel lost were French, while the two Greek pilots lost their lives.
“It is an incredibly improbable accident to have an aircraft that has an engine breakdown at takeoff, flies sharply off course and falls right on top of aircraft which are getting ready to fly, so are full of fuel,” he said. “It is a series of unlucky events.”
No details were given of the cause of engine failure.
The French Air Force will continue to send pilots to Albacete air base, which operates as a NATO training site, he said.
Mercier said he knew the air base well, and that there was no safety or organizational problem.
“It was completely bad luck,” he said. “A few meters further and there would have been a different outcome.”
Mercier said one of the French pilots was sitting in one of the Alpha jet trainers that Monday, studying the flight plans, while the pilot due to fly with him had left his plans by the runway and was not in the plane when the F-16 hit the flight line.
“One is luck, the other enormously bad luck,” he said. There was not much more to be done on boosting safety, he said.
A crash inquiry has been launched and the F-16’s black boxes have been recovered, he said.
Read More:Mercier: Engine Failure Prompted F-16 Crash.