Report: Pilot error caused fatal crash

By Marlena Hartz : Freedom Newspapers

An Air Force pilot with Clovis ties crashed his F-16 fighter and died last year in Iraq while attempting to protect ground forces, according to an Air Force report released Monday.

Maj. Troy Gilbert — who was flying an F-16 assigned to Cannon Air Force Base — flew the jet too low to the ground and too close to targets while attacking insurgents Nov. 27, 2006, the U.S. Air Force Aircraft Accident Investigation Board Report reads.

Gilbert, 34, was married to a Clovis native, Ginger Gilbert.

Eight F-16s assigned to Cannon have crashed since 1997, according to CNJ
archives. Gilbert’s crash was the first during a war.

Deployed from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Gilbert was providing support for a downed helicopter near Baghdad when a coalition ground force trying to secure the helicopter was attacked by insurgents, the report reads. The insurgents were using an array of weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

In his first of two attacks, Gilbert damaged an insurgent vehicle with his 20-millimeter cannon, the report reads. In his second attack, he flew too low and couldn’t recover, according to the report.

He made no attempt to eject and died immediately upon impact, the report reads.
Gilbert flew in tight circles at a low altitude for 15 minutes while he tried to identify the insurgents’ vehicles, which were moving extremely fast, the report reads.

The pilot of another F-16 that flew with him that day had returned to a tanker to re-fuel just prior to the accident.

“Circling low and … (Gilbert’s) compulsion to keep his eyes on the intended target prevented him from referencing instruments and displays that would have indicated he was not at appropriate/planned attack parameter,” the report reads.

Gilbert’s “excessive motivation to succeed” in a stressful combat environment was another factor in the crash, the report reads.

Excessive motivation to succeed is a military term used to describe an individual who is preoccupied with success to the exclusion of other mission factors, the report says.

His second attack was further complicated because it was done at a perpendicular rather than a parallel angle. Perpendicular attacks are complicated and discouraged by the Air Force, the report reads.

Gilbert, the father of five young children, crashed 20 miles northwest of Baghdad.

He was serving as the 322nd Expeditionary Operations Group Chief of Standardization and Evaluation at the time of his death.

Gilbert is described in the report as being an experienced and competent aviator who was respected by his colleagues and was in the top echelon of F-16 pilots.

The F-16 he was flying was part of the 524th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed from Cannon. On the day of his death, Gilbert was flying with the 524th EFS, the report reads.

The $23.2 million aircraft was destroyed upon impact, the report reads.