Air Force releases investigation report on fatal crash of spy plane near Sutter Buttes

FILE PHOTO — An Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady flies a training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Rose Reynolds)

April 20, 2017 – A TU-2S crashed Sept. 20, 2016 near Sutter, Calif., during a training mission after the aircraft entered an unintentional secondary stall and the two pilots ejected, according to an Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board report released yesterday.

During the ejection sequence, the instructor pilot, Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie, was killed, and a second pilot received minor injuries.

“The purpose of this report was to identify the causes and contributing factors which may have contributed to the incident,” said Brig. Gen. David S. Nahom, AIB board president. “This was a terrible tragedy, and our heartfelt condolences go out to Lt. Col. Eadie’s family.”

The TU-2S, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, Calif., was conducting an “acceptance flight” training mission.  TU-2S pilots are competitively selected from the USAF’s already qualified aviator pool, and applicants undergo three “acceptance flights” as a part of their interview process. These flights allow prospective TU-2S pilots the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the TU-2S, under supervision of a TU-2S Instructor Pilot.

The mishap occurred during an “approach to stall” maneuver as part of the first acceptance flight for the interviewing pilot. During the recovery from the stall, the interviewing pilot’s flight control inputs placed the aircraft into an unintentional secondary stall, which led to a sharp left wing drop and excessive nose-low attitude.  With the aircraft having departed controlled flight and rapidly approaching an inverted condition near the minimum uncontrolled ejection altitude, the instructor pilot commanded ejection.  During the ejection sequence, the instructor pilot and his ejection seat struck the aircraft’s right wing resulting in fatal injuries.

The aircraft descended and crashed in the uninhabited foothills south of the Sutter Buttes mountain range.  There were no injuries on the ground.   The aircraft was completely destroyed, with a government loss of approximately $32 million.