Report of Too-Low Fly-by Released
The Air Force Times obtained the investigation report of the T-38 fly-by of the Iowa-Ohio State football game that was deemed too low to be legal. The report is not flattering of the pilots, but does reveal there was at least one mitigating factor:
An Air Force pilot who led a dangerously low flyover before an Iowa football game told investigators he descended to avoid other air traffic and then lost track of his altitude because he was busy with other tasks, according to a report documenting missteps in the flight’s planning and execution…
Two small planes had taken off without clearance from Iowa City’s airport and an air traffic controller warned one could be in [their] flight path and was not in contact with the control tower. [Flight lead Maj Christopher] Kopacek said he started a slow descent to avoid the potential traffic, and then became “task saturated” and lost track of his altitude while trying to avoid the plane and correct his timing. The plane passed about one-quarter mile away from and 1,700 feet above Kopacek’s jet.
The miss distance of the reported traffic is not insignificant, though it does not say where the traffic pass took place. The report also said the flight failed to brief minimum altitudes for the event, so none of the others in the formation realized they were too low. The report also says the fly by was practiced three times the day prior, all below 1,000 feet, without any mention of traffic (though the AF Times also fails to say how far below 1,000 feet they were).
The training wing to which the pilots belong has reportedly “adopted changes” based on the incident:
The changes include having an experienced instructor pilot fly in the backseat of one aircraft during flyovers, setting target altitudes beforehand and requiring the use of video recording and altitude warning systems in aircraft that have them.
Now, if a fly by was conducted too low with four pilots in the air and two on the ground (all of whom were responsible enough to be disciplined by the Air Force), how will adding another person to the formation help?