Mysterious Crash Of A USAF Classified Jet Near Nellis AFB Fuels Speculations Of F-35 Involved

Sep 09 2017 - 32 Comments
By Tom Demerly

A Second Pilot Was Killed Last Week, The Air Force Isn’t Saying Which Type (Then Says “Definitely not an F-35”). He Was An F-35 Pilot.

Following the release of information about two A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft crashing over the Nevada Test and Training Range near Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas last Wednesday (after an F-16 from 162FW had crashed killing an Iraqi student pilot) there are media reports of an additional, third aircraft that also crashed, but the aircraft type and mission have not been released. Reports indicate this third crash reported happened on Tuesday, September 5, the day before the two A-10s crashed.

Reports of this earlier, third crash from this week began surfacing in local Nevada media late on Friday, September 8, two days after the reports of the two A-10s crashing.

Reports do not indicate the type aircraft that pilot Lt. Col. Eric Schultz was flying, but a short story published on the Capital Gazette by writer Rick Hutzell said, “The aircraft was assigned to Air Force Materiel Command, which leads development of new combat technologies for the service.”

The stated mission of the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) is, “To conduct research, development, testing and evaluation, and provide acquisition and life cycle management services and logistics support.” This mission set is congruent with new aircraft development.

USAF Major Christina Sukach, a spokeswoman for the 99th Air Base Wing, was reported as telling media that, “Lt. Col. Schultz died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. The crash remains under investigation, and additional details were not immediately available.”

“These are separate incidents and both are currently under investigation to determine their causes,” Nellis Public Affairs told Oriana Pawlyk and Brendan McGarry, reporters for

“Information about the type of aircraft involved is classified and not releasable,” Maj. Christina Sukach, chief of public affairs for the 99 Air Base Wing at Nellis, said in an email to

Reports also suggest that Lt. Col. Schultz may have initially survived the mishap, and died from injuries sustained in the classified crash.

While there is no official information reporting what aircraft Lt. Col. Schultz was flying at the time of Tuesday’s crash, the only available photos of Lt. Col. Schultz show him in the cockpit of an F-35A (needless to say, meanwhile he may have moved to another program..)

USAF Lt. Col. Eric “Doc” Schultz, flying F-35A number AF-1, releases the first-ever 2,000 pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) in tests over the China Lake Test Range on October 16, 2012 (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

According to sources, Capt. Eric Schultz became the 28th pilot to fly the F-35 when he took off from Edwards AFB, California, in F-35A AF-1 for a 1.3-hour test mission on September 15, 2011.

Additionally, the AFMC, to which the crashed aircraft belonged, is a parent unit of the 412th Test Wing, based at Edwards Air Force Base, whose 416 FLTS (Flight Test Squadron) flies the F-35 Lightning II.

For these reasons, there are growing speculations that the aircraft involved in the crash is an F-35 working inside the Nellis Test and Training Range. Still, the aircraft could also be some Black Project jet that the U.S. Air Force wants to remain secret for some more time.

An official Air Force media release on the Mountain Home AFB website from September 28, 2006 said, “As a young boy, Capt. Eric Schultz, dreamed of being an astronaut. As a young man, he couldn’t become a military pilot because of his poor eyesight. For 10 years, during which the military denied him entrance three times, he did the next best thing: earning a doctorate in aerospace engineering. But his dream of flight took off again when Schultz underwent laser eye surgery and the Air Force accepted him as a pilot.”

We will update the story as soon as new details emerge.

Update on Sept. 9, 15.14 UTC:

Looks like the F-35 theory has been debunked:








  • Black Eagle

    I don’t see any reason why they should keep in secret informations about the type of aircraft if it would be just usual 4th generation aircraft such as the F-15 or F-16 that are in service in huge numbers and already crashed many times. Sure it must be some new kind of technology that cost billions of dollars and is also likely intended for potential foreign users. So if something went wrong with it, it have to stay classified otherwise it will not make good reputation.

    • TractorEngineer

      Even 5th generation aircraft mishaps are not kept secret. F-22 and F-35 AIB reports are publicly released just like A-10, F-15, and F-16 mishaps are. Mishaps are not kept secret to protect the reputations of manufacturers. If it’s caused by a classified electronic box, the mishap finding will be vague so that classified information is not released (it might say something like “an electronic fault on the jet led to a cascading electrical failure that rendered the jet no longer controllable”).

      AIB reports have also been publicly released for aircraft that have crashed in a classified location. AIB reports usually state the general geographic area (Nellis Air Force Range or Gulf of Mexico, something like that) but I’ve seen “CENTCOM Area of Responsibility” with mention of “the host country” in the report with no other location information provided.

      The general rule is that an AIB report will be released. The more sensitive or classified the pertinent information is, the more vague the report will be when talking about it.

      • WHOHE

        Likely one of the triangle aircraft that the USAF flew over Texas on a clear and sunny day at contrail altitude for everyone to see?

      • Black Eagle

        Sometimes you can’t keep in secret mishaps when they occurred in populated areas and when is obvious that there are already many witnesses and evidences. Also is different when some malfunction will cause for example just emergency landing but the aircraft and pilot are okay, and when something will cause crash of an aircraft and death of a pilot. Surely if the second option would occur it wouldn’t be good for the aircraft as well as for the manufacturer itself, especially if we are talking about aircraft like the F-35 which is supposed to be the best in the class. Accident like this could easily cause that foreign customers that are interested in the aircraft could be more skeptical and lost their interest and I don’t think that after Canada, Lockheed Martin would like to lose another customer and billions of dollars.

      • vantguard

        “F-22 and F-35 AIB reports are publicly released just like A-10, F-15, and F-16 ”
        ten or twelve years later…. when it happened.

  • WpnsLoader175

    If a F35 went down. They would cover it up until they could find a way to NOT blame the jet, or find a good cover story.

    • Mali King

      It’s not a F35 that went down. Looks like Lt Col Eric Schultz may have been working in a new and possibly Black program.

      • vantguard

        Pink program. Not black.

    • El Kabong

      No, they wouldn’t.

  • Arno Nymes

    So sad news.
    R.I.P for a brave pilot.

  • FoilHatWearer

    A second pilot killed? Who was the first? Both A-10 pilots made it.

    • cencio4

      Iraqi pilot on a F-16 from Tucson. Edited to make it clearer.

      • FoilHatWearer

        OK, that makes sense! Forgot about the Tucson F-16. Yeah, it’s been a tough week for military aviation.

  • Genesis

    Rip for the pilot….ok now i have to say this….
    Leroyyyyy where are you my boyyyy

  • leroy

    Condolences. Maybe they were preparing in some way for an attack on Kim, and that way nothing’s gonna be said.

    • Joe Trader

      Prayers>>>condolences. Yup – I said it – because it’s true 100%.

    • really?

      Or they werent, it was a routine test flight gone terribly wrong, and you are doing your usual propaganda routine?

      Dont you ever get tired of constantly posting so much nonsense?

  • Andrew Pearce

    Best figure out what actually happened before they release news a f35 fell from the sky. You wouldn’t want a whole bunch of armchair generals running with the narrative.

  • Ilya Kurenkov

    Sad news indeed, RIP fo the pilot and prayers to his family.

    As for the the machine: of course it is not confirmed, but there is strong possibility it was F-35. All this sophisticated machinery, kilometers of software code could not save the man. Yes, ejection from a jet is a lottery, but modern bang seats save people from 0 height/0 speed, and there are really not too much fatal incidents.
    At moment ejection/pilot death ratio of F-35 and its MB ejection seat is 100%. Too bad.

    Hope LM will be able to find a way to improve things one more time.

    • Mali King

      It was not a F35 that crashed as confirmed by General David Goldfein. The aircraft may have been part of a Black project hence the “classified” status. And don’t be so blasé about failed ejections.

    • WpnsLoader175

      The martin baker seat is good. The transparency removal system is a bit odd. It explodes the canopy glass. Nothing gives you a warm fuzy feeling like having your head surrounded by a shape charge.

  • James Goodwin

    Reminds me of the 1963 crash of an A-12 later listed as a F-105. A-12 led to SR-71 and a long, successful career. I am not going to speculate on type that crashed out of respect to the USAF and the deceased pilot. But hope what went wrong will be found and corrected. Remember there are countries and individuals who want to do us harm had they had the emergent technology we are trying to develop. You would not share your homework with others.

  • Nied

    My guess is the aircraft that crashed is one of the illicitly obtained Flankers or Fulcrums we operate.

    • WpnsLoader175

      That is a really good option for this. A doctorate in engineering and long experienced test pilot would be a perfect candidate for that kind of program.

  • Ernest T. Bass


  • Quattro Bajeena

    Actually the rumours are that it was a B-21 prototype. If it was a plain F-35 they wouldn’t have been this secretive.

    • WpnsLoader175

      B21 is so early along it’s unlikely it’s flyable, and if it is it would be a company pilot.

  • Ellie

    Is this sarcasm? Can’t tell: “Update on Sept. 9, 15.14 UTC: Looks like the F-35 theory has been debunked”

  • Uniform223

    Some of the comments I have read (not just here) surrounding this unfortunate incident is sickening to me. The critics and detractors (often Sukhoi/Mig fanboy base it would seem…) are already using this as “ammo” for their cause. Rather than mourn the unfortunate passing of someone greater then most of us, people are using his affiliation with a very scrutinized aircraft/program in a sad and weak attempt to make something up.

    • Ethan Mclean

      You’re not wrong, but welcome to the internet. You can refer to any of leroy’s posts for counter sukhoi/mig fanboy theme.

  • Elena Herwagen

    Russians say that the aircraft in question was their SU-27 obtained through a third party to imitate “an enemy” in training. Could it be true?