F-18 test plane crashes near East St. Louis

June 19, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT

BETHALTO, Illinois (CNN) -- An F/A-18 fighter jet doing aerobatic maneuvers while practicing for an air show crashed Wednesday near St. Louis, killing the pilot and destroying a house across the street from the St. Louis Regional Airport. No other injuries were reported.

The crash aftermath
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The plane, which was being flown by a pilot for St. Louis manufacturer McDonnell Douglas Corp., had spent the afternoon performing aerobatics in the area.


"He started doing an outside roll ... and when he got to the top of the roll something went wrong; he stalled or something," said Gene Siglock, who lives in an unincorporated area near Bethalto, about two blocks from the crash site. "He started coming down, and I lost him behind some trees. "

The pilot was the only person on board the McDonnell Douglas aircraft, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis-based company said.

Undergoing tests

The jet was undergoing tests, said Larry McCracken, a spokesman for McDonnell Douglas. The pilot landed at the St. Louis Regional Airport in Bethalto, which is often used by McDonnell Douglas, and crashed shortly aftertaking off again, said Brenda Curtis, secretary for the regional airport authority.

Another McDonnell Douglas spokesman, Fred Hill, said the plane was preparing for an air show in the Czech Republic next week.

While Pentagon sources say the plane was an older "C" model F/A-18, McDonnell Douglas said it was a new plane. Both agree that the Navy was the original owner, but the plane was leased back to McDonnell Douglas.


The crash happened in a Bethalto subdivision about a mile away from the end of the airport runway. There were reports of a power outage resulting from the crash, which happened at 3:45 p.m. EDT.

The F/A-18 is manufactured by McDonnell Douglas.

Although the fighter plane was not under military command at the time of the crash, it was the third military aircraft to be involved in a crash this week. Tuesday, two Army helicopters crashed into each other during a demonstration exercise at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

And it was the latest in a string of military aircraft crashes that have drawn widespread media attention this year. A Government Accounting Office study released in February said the peacetime safety record for military aircraft has improved over the last 20 years. But, it said, human error plays a role in almost two-thirds of the accidents.

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