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Report Blames Velcro in Jet Crash

April 30, 1999 GMT

WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ The Air Force has pinpointed the cause of a training crash that reduced a $10.2 million jet to debris: Velcro failure.

The fabric fastener is meant to hold a box for night-vision goggles on a console inside the A-10 jet cockpit. But the box came loose, and its strap snagged a control switch when the pilot tried to elbow it out of the way, investigators said Thursday.

``The A-10 community is looking at correcting that,″ said Maj. Karen Platt of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield.

The pilot, Capt. Ronald Halley, 30, parachuted to safety. His jet hurtled into the ground in the Jan. 20 crash 44 miles northeast of Syracuse. No one was hurt.

The pilot, who was wearing his night-vision goggles, was practicing nighttime refueling and ground attack.

The Air Force investigators say he was approaching an airborne tanker to refuel when he bumped the goggle box with his elbow. The Velcro holding the strap to the console let go, and the box fell near some throttles. The pilot tried to nudge the box out of the way, but its strap caught a switch that disconnects hydraulic power. The change sent the jet into a wild nose dive.

Making matters worse, the goggle box ended up covering an emergency control panel. The goggles themselves made it harder for the pilot to see warning lights.

In a final indignity, the goggles broke and whacked the pilot in the face and thigh as he drifted back to earth. He suffered a black eye and bruise.