Air Force investigates F-16 crash, head of Thunderbirds fired
The head of the US Air Force's Thunderbirds, an elite military demonstration squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Jason Heard was discharged as the US Air Force “lost confidence in his leadership and risk management style,” the US military informed on November 29, 2017.
The US Air Force stated that "new leadership was necessary to ensure the highest levels of pride, precision, and professionalism within the team.”
“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team,” Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt said in an official statement.
According to the military, Kevin Walsh, the Thunderbird's 2016-2017 operations officer, has temporarily assumed the responsibility of the team until a new commander is selected.
The Heard's dismissal followed the recent Air Force report on the Thunderbird F-16 crash.
The accident happened on June 23, 2017, during a “familiarization flight” when the pilot demonstrated the capabilities of the F-16D. Upon landing, the pilot was unable to stop the aircraft on the prepared surface. As a result, the aircraft departed the runway and overturned in the grass. Two people who were on board – a pilot and a crew member – sustained injuries. The aircraft, estimated to be worth $29 million, was destroyed.
According to the US Air Force report, the aircraft crashed because it was moving too fast and did not have enough distance to stop on a runway. The Investigation Board also named environmental conditions affecting vision, misperception of changing the environment, and failure to follow procedures among the factors that caused the crash.
However, a spokesman for the Thunderbirds Ray Geoffroy claimed that Heard was not removed because of the F-16 crash, Business Insider informs.