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Problems persist with the F-16 airplanes

By STEPHANIE L. JORDAN Scripps Howard News Service March 19, 2000

KINGSVILLE, Texas - More than a dozen F-16 airplane crashes nationwide since 1988 have been caused by computer, pilot and engine problems, leading to the deaths of civilians and military pilots.

Several of the crash investigations have pointed to problems with the F-16 aircraft. An F-16 Falcon crashed Sunday at Naval Air Station Kingsville, killing the pilot and ending a recreational air show.

Last summer, the Air Force went to Congress to ask for $100 million to fix problems with multi-million-dollar jets. The request came after investigators blamed problems with F-16 engines for seven crashes between November 1998 and May 1999.

Some of the F-16 problems have included:

_ In February, a pilot from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona ejected safely, but his plane crashed _ the eighth F-16 crash in 16 months at that base.

Four crashes at Luke in 1999 were blamed on cracked augmentor ducts.

_ Pilot error caused a midair collision between two F-16s in Illinois in November. No one was seriously injured and one pilot was later grounded by the Illinois National Guard.

_ A turkey vulture was blamed for a crash that killed an F-16 pilot that was out on a training mission in July. The plane went down in Okeechobee, Fla., about 150 miles north of Miami.

_ An F-16 plane lost power in South Carolina in November 1998 because the computer cut off fuel. The mishap was blamed on a faulty computer analysis by the digital engine-controller that erroneously cut back the throttle. By the time the computer corrected itself during takeoff, the pilot had ejected.

_ In April 1997, a pilot ejected safely, but his F-16 airplane crashed in Georgia after the engine malfunctioned.

_ An engine that had caused problems in two F-16s was placed in a third that caused an explosion in September 1988. The plane crashed into a residential area in South Carolina, setting a house on fire and injuring eight people, one of whom died from extensive burns. The pilot ejected safely.

-- - (, March 20, 2000

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