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TWISTED FUEL SCREEN BLAMED IN F-16 CRASH NEAR S. WEBER

SHARE TWISTED FUEL SCREEN BLAMED IN F-16 CRASH NEAR S. WEBER

An F-16 that crashed onto I-84 near South Weber, Davis County, last October had a crushed and twisted fuel screen in its engine that caused it to malfunction, a team of investigators concluded.

Meanwhile, the pilot, Capt. Gary Deschane, who was hailed as a hero by local officials for preventing his jet from crashing into homes, acted appropriately when he aimed his Fighting Falcon toward a vacant field then ejected moments before the crash, the investigators' report said."The pilot completed all critical action procedures recommended in the flight manual pertaining to this emergency situation," concluded Lt. Col. Scott K. Flood, investigating officer.

The report was obtained through a Freedom of Information Request by the Deseret News.

The accident occurred on an Oct. 30, 1992, afternoon training flight by members of the 15th Test Squadron based at Hill Air Force Base. Deschane experienced engine problems shortly after takeoff and was rapidly losing thrust. When he determined he couldn't correct the problem nor make it back to the runway, Deschane pointed the aircraft to a vacant field near the I-84 and U.S. 89 interchange, jettisoned the aircraft's fuel tanks then ejected about 500 feet above ground, the report said.

The designated area for troubled aircraft to jettison fuel tanks is the Great Salt Lake, the report said, but given the circumstances Deschane acted appropriately.

Instead of landing in the field, the jet veered right, ripping a path through trees in the freeway median and narrowly missing traffic as it skidded across the westbound lanes before disintegrating into a ball of fire on the side of the road. No one was injured in the accident.

There was enough of the aircraft left for investigators to find a crushed and twisted screen in the engine's "augmented fuel pump controller." The damaged part caused a loss of fuel pressure, which prevented the engine nozzle from closing and "drastically reduced" thrust, the report said.

Investigators also found evidence of contaminated fuel. But they couldn't find the source of the bad fuel, nor could they determine how the problem screen was crashed and twisted.

The report said the aircraft had been maintained properly and showed no earlier signs of problems. The aircraft's engine was installed in August and "had flown four times since a minor phase inspection with no indications of engine problems," the report said.