Expatica news

F-16 collision blamed for crash tragedy

10 December 2003

BRUSSELS – The Belgian military jet accident that led to the death of a pilot was due to two F-16 fighter planes colliding, it was confirmed Wednesday.

The collision happened at 11.30am on Tuesday above the village of Havelange, near Marche-en-Famenne.

The body of 40-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel Ronny Vaerten was found in the debris of his cockpit, while 22-year-old Sub-Lieutenant Wouter Rombouts managed to eject from his aircraft before impact and was found strapped into his parachute and hanging from a tree. He is suffering from minor injuries.

Vaerten was one of the 10th tactical wing’s most experienced pilots. Questions are being asked as to why his ejector seat did not function.

Local residents told the crash above their village.

“I was putting up my Christmas tree when I heard an enormous boom – there was a fireball and then smoke in the air, one parachute came down,” Havelange resident Hubert Dumont told La Libre Belgique.

The village itself suffered only slight damage, with parts of the aircrafts’ fuselages falling on several roofs as well as the local school.

The F-16s took off from Kleine Brogel air force base in Limburg to practise a Forward Air Controller or FAC, a technique in which an air traffic controller guides pilots to their target. 

The accident brings to four the number of fighter planes lost during exercises in Belgium in the past year. A total of 35 planes have been lost since the Belgian army acquired F-16s from the US in 1975, and at least 13 pilots have been killed.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Belgian news