Death crash US jet pilot 'did not report issues'

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Media captionUS FA-18 C crash pilot 'kept aircraft issue' from maintenance

A jet pilot killed in a crash did not report problems with his aircraft to engineers, fearing it would delay his colleagues, an investigation found.

Maj Taj Sareen died when his FA-18C US Marine Corps jet came down in Cambridgeshire in October 2015.

The accident investigation report, seen by the BBC, said there was evidence his navigation system was "not 100%".

Maj Sareen, 34, told colleagues about the issues but did not tell the maintenance team, the report said.

The fighter plane, flown solo by Maj Sareen, crashed at Temple Farm in Redmere shortly after taking off from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

He had made comments to three individuals which "strongly suggest that the navigation system aboard his aircraft was not 100%" before taking off from Lakenheath.

The combination of "stress from wanting to get home", "stress of not wanting to be the reason for an additional delay", and Maj Sareen's "confidence to manage the problem after successfully flying the past two legs" led him to keep the issue from the maintenance staff, the report's author said.

"The better decision would have been to debrief Maintenance Control about the problem and let them troubleshoot the aircraft."

Image copyright Annie Driscoll
Image caption Maj Taj Sareen died when his jet came down in Cambridgeshire in October 2015

On one occasion, before arriving at RAF Lakenheath, Maj Sareen told a fellow pilot that if they encountered poor conditions he might need to "join up" in order to "punch through the weather".

He was asked by his colleague whether there was "anything the matter" and he responded: "No, I just may need to join up".

Later, at RAF Lakenheath he was asked whether he had any issues. He responded, the report states, by saying "The inertial navigation system, but it is good."

When the maintenance controller tried to find what exactly was wrong, Maj Sareen replied: "Don't worry about it, the jet is good."

The report also found the weather on the day Maj Sareen died had a "major impact" by forcing him to use his standby flight instruments.

"If the weather conditions had been clear," the report's author said, "I believe Maj Sareen would have been able to adequately deal with the system problems/failure modes of the INS (inertial navigation system) and would have been able to avoid impact into the ground."

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