Two Air National Guard pilots have been cleared of blame in a midair collision on an orientation flight for stock car racer Bill Elliott, but the future of a third Air Force Reserve pilot from a unit stationed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, remains uncertain, according to military officials.
The collision occurred near Augusta on Nov. 24 while three planes, two F-15s stationed at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta and an F-16 stationed at Hill, were simulating combat.Attempting a head-on pass, the pilot of the F-16 apparently misjudged the flight path of one of the F-15s and collided with it, according a report of an Air Force investigation.
The F-15 crashed after its pilot, Lt. Col. Bruce MacLane of Sandy Springs, bailed out. The F-16 Fighting Falcon, carrying Elliott of Dawsonville on a courtesy flight, limped back to Dobbins, where the three planes had taken off. No one was seriously injured.
The report, released last week, leaves further action up to the pilots' commanding officers, said Col. Ralph E. Eberhart, stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, who headed the investigation.
Brig. Gen. Charles W. Taylor, commander of the Air National Guard's 116th Tactical Fighting Wing at Dobbins, said the two pilots and two F-15 aircraft under his command were "not found to be at fault in the accident."
Col. Forrest Winebarger, commander of the Air Force Reserves 419th Tactical Fighting Wing at Hill, said Monday he will take no action until he has studied the findings and determined the cause of the accident. The third pilot is under Winebarger's command.
Before the accident, Maj. Wayne Conroy, who flew the F-16, had been declared "medically qualified for flight." After the crash, however, an ophthalmologist determined that Conroy, whose last physical was in September 1986, needed glasses. He was not required to wear glasses at the time of the accident, according to the report.
Aircraft damage caused by the crash totaled $15.5 million, according to investigators.
Since the accident, all three pilots have continued to fly, their commanders said.