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Air Force cites pilot error as cause of fatal A-10 crash in desert

September 13, 1997 GMT

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Disoriented after a practice bombing dive, Air Force Capt. Amy Svoboda failed to realize she was flying upside down and drove her A-10 jet into the ground at 400 mph, an investigation has found.

Svoboda was the first female Air Force fighter pilot to die in a crash.

The three-month Air Force report, released Friday, said pilot error caused the May 27 crash, but that the darkness of the moonless night contributed.

Svoboda, after dropping her bombs over an Arizona desert training range, lost track of which way was up _ first flying at a steeply angled bank, then virtually upside-down, an accident investigation board reported.

``I am certain that Amy thought she was right-side up, because we found the engines at almost full power,″ said Col. Harlan Mickelson of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s 12th Air Force headquarters.

Warned to check her dive angle and apparently thinking she was climbing, Svoboda pulled on the throttle. But the jet’s nose was pointed downward, and she drilled the plane into the ground.

Sharon Svoboda, the mother of the 29-year-old pilot, said she was not surprised.

``We’ve waited a long time for the report and we’re finally glad that we do have it,″ Mrs. Svoboda said.

Mickelson, who headed the investigative board, said Svoboda reported seeing four bomb impacts, meaning she would have had to twist around to see outside the right rear of her plane.

She should have been concentrating on her flight instrument panel, he said. The report also said night vision goggles she wore reduce a pilot’s peripheral vision and depth perception, but other pilots told the board that the goggles did not cause problems for them.

One of 14 female pilots in the Air Force, Svoboda was chief of training for the 355th Wing’s 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan. She was a 1989 graduate of the Air Force Academy.

A Navy pilot who crashed trying to land her F-14A on an aircraft carrier in 1994 was the first U.S. female fighter pilot killed in a crash.