The U.S. Air Force today released a report for a mishap involving a prototype AC-130J Ghostrider gunship that occurred on April 21, 2015. The mishap occurred while conducting a test mission over the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 40 miles south of Pensacola. The report states there were no injuries, however the mishap resulted in the “total loss” of a $115 million aircraft, according to air force officials.
The incident occurred while the crew from the 413th Flight Test Squadron based out of Eglin Air Force Base was performing banking maneuvers at an altitude of approximately 15,000 feet. The aircraft maneuvered too steeply and momentarily inverted before being recovered after losing approximately 5,000 feet of altitude. The aircraft returned to base and landed safely without further incident, according to officials.
The officer in charge of the investigation found the cause of the accident to be the AC-130J pilot’s “excessive rudder input during the test point followed by inadequate rudder input to initiate a timely recovery from high angle of sideslip due to overcontrolled/undercontrolled aircraft and wrong choice of action during an operation.”
The lead investigator also found four substantially contributing factors to the mishap including, “instrumentation and warning system issues, spatial disorientation, confusion, and inadequate provision of procedural guidance or publications to the team.”
As a result of the mishap, the aircraft was “over G’d, thereby nullifying the airworthiness of the aircraft and rendering it a total loss,” according to the report. The Air Force says the damages are estimated at more than $115 million. The service is expected to procure 32 of the AC-130J gunships by 2021. The aircraft are to replace the aging fleet of older model gunships, the AC-130H and AC-130U.