F-16 Landing Mishap Marks Second Incident This Month for South Dakota Guard Unit

F-16 taxis at Joe Foss Field, South Dakota.
F-16 taxis at Joe Foss Field, South Dakota, June 24, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Taylor Solberg)

An Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet skidded off the runway at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport on Tuesday afternoon, just weeks after a similar incident happened to another aircraft at the same airfield.

Around 4 p.m. local time, an F-16C with the South Dakota Air National Guard's 114th Fighter Wing "departed the edge" of a runway after returning from a routine training mission, the unit said in a statement. The incident is under investigation.

Photos from the local newspaper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, show the jet with its nose cone dipped into the ground. Emergency crews came to the scene to check on the pilot, and he was released.

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Tuesday's incident mirrors another landing mishap with the 114th Fighter Wing that occurred just 20 days earlier.

On May 11, another F-16 "went off the end of Runway 15 at Joe Foss Field" at the regional airport. Images began circulating online of the fighter jet's nose cone dipping to the ground after it landed during a similar training mission. The pilot and ground crew were safe.

"Even though we train to do this every day, there is still risk involved. We are grateful that no one was harmed in this incident," Col. Mark Morrell, the 114th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement following the May 11 incident.

Tuesday's runway mishap is the latest in a string of landing mishaps and crashes seen this year with the Air Force's jets.

Notably, there have been long-standing issues specifically with F-16 landing gear. Collapses on F-16Cs have been happening since at least the late 1990s, according to Air Force Magazine.

On March 5, 2019, the Air Force issued an order for the "Replacement of Main Landing Gear Downlock Actuators and Support Brackets and Hardware on all USAF F-16C/D Blocks 40/42/50/52 Aircraft," the magazine reported.

F-16 units had until March 2, 2022, to comply with the order. It's unclear whether the 114th Fighter Wing has replaced its gear. The Air National Guard unit did not respond to multiple phone calls left with its public affairs office on Wednesday.

The Air Force has been flying the earliest versions of the F-16 since the late 1970s and the F-16C/D variant -- which is flown by South Dakota's 114th Fighter Wing -- since the mid-1980s.

There were three F-16 mishaps last year, according to the Air Force Safety Center. One of the crashes led to the death of a pilot and the plane being completely destroyed.

The same week as another F-16 crash in Louisiana in March of this year, airmen began posting an image of an F-22 Raptor with its nose buried in the ground at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, after the aircraft had an apparent landing gear mishap.

An almost identical incident happened with another F-22 at Eglin last year, when a pilot experienced an in-flight emergency and the front landing gear didn't operate properly, causing the nose to dip and impact the runway.

Air Force Safety Center data shows that five Raptors had mishaps in 2021, costing taxpayers upward of $600,000 each.

Investigations into the two landing mishaps last month at Sioux Falls are ongoing.

"The Wing has formed an interim safety board to begin investigating the incident," the 114th Fighter Wing said in a statement. "Follow-up information will be provided as it becomes available."

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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