'Reduced visibility' contributed to death of RAF Lakenheath pilot

Kenneth 'Kage' Allen was the US pilot who died on Monday Picture: FACEBOOK

Kenneth Allen died in June 2020 when his aircraft from RAF Lakenheath crashed into the North Sea - Credit: Facebook

“Reduced visibility” was one of the factors which led to the death of an RAF Lakenheath pilot, an investigation has concluded.

Lieutenant Kenneth Allen, of the 493rd Fighter Squadron, died on June 15 when the F-15C Eagle he was piloting on a training exercise crashed off the coast of Yorkshire.

His body was recovered from the North Sea later that day, while the F15C - from Lakenheath’s 48th Fighter Wing - was destroyed. 

F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron perform a missing-man formation in memory

F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron perform a formation in memory of Lt Kenneth Allen, the RAF Lakenheath pilot who died after crashing into the North Sea - Credit: 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

And now an accident investigation board (AIB) report into the crash, released by United States Air Forces In Europe (USAFE), has found a lack of visibility and resulting “spatial disorientation” were key contributors to Lt Allen’s death.

It also pointed to the pilot’s “fixation” on intercepting a simulated enemy aircraft during the mission, as well as failure to perform “cockpit instrument visual scans”.

The report states that performing cockpit scans was integral given the “instrument meteorological conditions”, a term used in aviation to indicate that use of outside visual references is insufficient due to inclement weather.

There was said to be multiple cloud layers up to 25,000ft at the time of the exercise. 

The AIB concluded that reduced visibility and a “lack of discernible horizon” for the pilot likely led to him being disoriented, resulting in a rapid descent and “undesirably” low altitude before the crash landing. 

Lt Allen did not eject prior to his aircraft entering the sea.

An F15 fighter jet landing at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk similar to the one flown by US airman Kenneth

An F15 fighter jet landing at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, similar to the one flown by US airman Kenneth Allen - Credit: PA

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Colonel Jason Camilletti, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, said: “The loss of an airman is never easy, and this was no exception.

“Our Liberty Wing community, especially the Reapers of the 493rd Fighter Squadron, was truly touched by the tremendous outpouring of support from around the globe in our time of grieving.”

General Jeff Harrigian, USAFE and Air Forces Africa commander, added: “This unfortunate accident is yet another reminder of the inherent risks airmen take on a daily basis to ensure the successes of our air force.

“Lt Allen was an outstanding officer and a tremendous asset to the team. No words can compensate for such a painful and sudden loss.”

USAFE said it was “constantly evaluating safety procedures” and would ensure the report’s findings are incorporated into flying training.

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