SAFB T-38C Talon Crash Investigation Over - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

SAFB T-38C Talon Crash Investigation Over

A single bird is what brought an Air Force T-38 to the ground in Wichita County last July.  The U.S. Air Force released their findings on Tuesday on that crash.

The crash happened on July 19th.  The report said the T-38 took the bird strike on the canopy that goes over the pilots.  The canopy broke and sent fragments into one of the engines causing it to burn out.

The report also said the instructor pilot waited to eject until he was able to turn the plane away from the City of Wichita Falls.  Both airmen in the plane were able to eject safely.

It was a single Cattle Egret that brought the plane down, which is a type of bird that is common in the area from early Spring through the Summer months. 

The Air Force has a program that works to keep birds out of the path of planes.  It's called the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard, also known as BASH.  It's part of Air Safety at Sheppard Air Force Base.  The team of airmen and a wildlife biologist work to keep the birds and other wildlife away from the base, which keeps them away from any aircraft flying at the base.

Captain Ben Davidson with the 80th Flying Wing Air Safety said, "We have bird watch conditions that allow pilots to know the basic number of birds that they can expect to be out on the airfield and the chance of hitting a bird during that time."

There are lots of efforts that are underway to make the 2,000 acre airfield a place where birds don't want to go.  They even cover drainage ditches to take water out of the equation.  However, ragweed is a problem on the air field because there isn't much grass left due to the drought.  Normally the air field is covered with the long grass to keep birds away.  The grass is deep so the birds can't nest or feed on the ground, but the drought killed most of that grass and Western Ragweed moved in.  This type of ragweed brought more birds to the base.

Wildlife Biologist Ted Pepps tracks the wildlife at Sheppard and said more birds means more threats.

"It doesn't take much.  We've known from other experience that birds as small as barn swallows can bring down an aircraft.  It's all a matter of where it hits the plane and what kind of damage it does," said Pepps.

Pepps also explained the ragweed problem has brought in new birds that are feeding off its seeds.  He has been at SAFB for nine years and said he and air safety officers work not only to protect the air force planes, but also the commercial aircraft that use those runways for Municipal Airport.

Chris Horgen, Newschannel 6

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