ATHROTTLE TRIGGER malfunction and inadvertent throttle rotation have been found to be the cause of the crash of a USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, F-16CM south of Peterson AFB, Colorado, on June 2, 2016. The findings were released in an Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report published on December 14, and the document confirmed the aircraft involved was 92-3890.
The mishap occurred after a flyby of the USAF Academy graduation in Colorado Springs. (See Attrition, July 2016, p93.) After beginning landing procedures and entering the Petersen AFB traffic pattern, when positioned on the downwind leg the highly experienced pilot inadvertently rotated the throttle, placing it into an engine cut-off position. Normally, this full rotation cannot occur unless a throttle trigger is affirmatively actuated or pressed. However, the throttle trigger was stuck in the pressed position.
The AIB observed debris accumulation in the throttle trigger combined with wear on the trigger assembly.