An Alabama Air National Guard pilot had a close call when his F-16 developed a problem with the onboard environmental control system which leads to his cockpit canopy fogging up. The pilot was landing after taking part in an airshow at Wittman Airport, Oshkosh, Wis., when the ventilation system failed and condensation formed during the final approach.
With his vision obscured, the pilot from the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field Alabama tried to de-mist the canopy, most likely in a similar manner to a car’s windshield but was ultimately unsuccessful. So he managed to land the F-16 on the runway but veered off onto soft ground that snapped the front landing gear and the airframe then dug into the grass causing some $5 million worth of damage.
Being distracted by the fogging problem the pilot failed to apply the air brake that would have effectively reduced the fast touch-down speed and stop the aircraft in the available remaining runway.
Investigators said in their report that the aircraft had been maintained correctly therefore the root cause was a random component failure.
The lack of casualties and the non fatal damage to the aircraft shows how much skill the pilot had: in spite of his inability to evaluate the remaining runway and his vision obscured by the fogged canopy, he decided to ride the stricken Falcon in rather than risk hundreds of casualties on the ground by ejecting.
Richard Clements for The Aviationist
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