A Dutch air force Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon that crashed on 31 August 2006 in Afghanistan while on a standard two-aircraft support mission from Kabul may have gone down because the pilot, who did not eject and died in the crash, was distracted by a spider in the cockpit.
Dutch investigators were unable to establish the cause of the crash, as flight data recorders were not recovered and may have been taken by locals. However, vermin in the cockpit was identified as a possible cause.
There have been situations in Kabul where vermin had entered the cockpits of parked aircraft, although local venomous snakes and scorpions are not toxic enough to incapacitate a human within an hour.
But an F-16 was once grounded when a camel spider was found in the cockpit, and in this case a spider may have caused the pilot to shift his attention from flying the aircraft to fighting this arachnid, the investigators suggested.
About 20min into the fatal flight the dead pilot’s wingman received a mayday call and saw the F-16 in a 30e_SDgr bank and 20e_SDgr nose-down position roll tumbling to the ground at a rate of 100-120°/s.
About 30s later the aircraft was diving with an 80e_SDgr nose-down angle of attack, and then crashed into a hillside with a flash fire on impact.
The F-16 was built in 1984 and had flown more than 2,700h.
Possible causes deemed unlikely or very unlikely included flight-control problems, loss of cabin pressure, pilot medical problem, loss of engine power, electrical or hydraulic problems, fire or contaminated oxygen. The ejection seat almost certainly did not malfunction.
The Dutch air force investigators recommended that seat data recorders be made more visible to improve chances of recovery.