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

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:








About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.


  1. 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. Of course it was some new kind of technology that cost billions of dollars and is also likely intended for potential foreign users. So when something went wrong with it, it has to be classified or totally covered by some fake story otherwise it will not do good reputation for the manufacturer.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • “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.

  2. 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.

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