Pilot error caused Swiss Hornet crash, report concludes

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An accident investigation into the fatal crash of a Swiss air force Boeing F/A-18D Hornet late last year has concluded that pilot error was to blame for the incident.

Both people on board the training aircraft – including a doctor from the service’s Dübendorf aeromedical institute, who was on a familiarisation flight – died when it hit a mountainside near Alpnach on 23 October 2013.

The aircraft was one of two which had taken off from Meiringen air base at 13:35 local time for a training sortie, along with a single-seat F/A-18C.

According to investigators, the formation leader opted to return to Meiringen shortly into the flight, after approaching a rain front with a low cloud base. But the pilot first misjudged the room required to complete a turn and then initiated the manoeuvre too late, resulting in a “hopeless situation”, the report says.

Other potential factors – such as a technical malfunction with the aircraft or a pilot health issue – were eliminated as a result of “complex technical, aeronautical and medical investigations”.