When the crashed occurred there was speculation a bird strike was to blame and now that has been confirmed.
Just before 7 am on July 19th a Sheppard Air Force T38 Talon crashed just outside the base.
The student and instructor pilot walked away with minor injuries after ejecting.
But the loss of the plane was put at $8 million.
The investigation team determined a Cattle Egret caused the crash, and that several of the birds were seen around the airfield around the time of the accident.
“The following week, and the next couple of weeks after that, the number of Cattle Egrets crossing the airfield really shot through the roof so we began declaring bird status severe,” said SAFB Flight Safety Officer, Ben Davidson.
Sheppard Air Force Base reports about 50 bird strikes a year.
They say sometimes they result in damages, but most often they don't.
To help with wildlife issues they have a Bird-Aircraft Strike Hazard team, otherwise known as “BASH,” to try to reduce the danger of strikes.
Team members like Ted Pepps, a wildlife biologist, who has been working to enclose the drainage ditch on the airfield to prevent birds from gathering there.
“The drainage ditch was built in the 1940's before probably thought about the bird strikes and now we are taking proactive measures to try to keep water fowl, and herons away from the runways,” said Pepps.
The drought has also brought additional problems. It's encouraged Western Ragweed to grow, which Papps says attracts many birds.
“So we are always trying to be proactive because you never know when the 'golden BB' is going to hit,” he said.
Just one of many proactive things teams here do so images like this don't have to be seen again.
The investigation team also found that the pilot made a turn that further increased the drag on the aircraft, forcing it to lose airspeed and lift, stalling the engine, but ultimately allowing the plane to avoid any populated areas.
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