Coming Up Empty-Handed from Davy Jones’ Locker

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Phoenix International

Hunting for F-16 parts on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

Last month we noted the efforts of the Navy to come to the Air Force’s aid by diving 18,558 feet deep into the Pacific, off the Japanese coast, for bits of wreckage from a doomed F-16 (the pilot parachuted to safety).

Alas, the $1.4 million hunt for the treasure the Air Force was seeking from the bottom of the sea has come up empty-handed.

The official Air Force investigation into the accident, released Tuesday, figured out how the accident happened, but couldn’t figure out why:

Falcons in Southwest Asia


The board president found, by clear and convincing evidence, the cause of the mishap was an uncommanded closure of the main fuel shutoff valve (MFSOV). The main fuel shutoffvalve in the closed position stops fuel from reaching the engine and thus the engine stopped producing thrust. By a preponderance of evidence, the board determined the MA experienced a partial closure of the MFSOV for over three minutes, which limited the thrust of the engine to sub-idle RPM of 70%, and then fully closed after three minutes at which time the engine rolled back to jet fuel starter assisted RPM of 20% until impact. The board could not determine with reasonable certainty the reason for the un-commanded closure of the MFSOV, due to the loss of several vital pieces of evidence. Specifically, the wreckage of the cockpit fuel control panel, fuel control wiring harness from the cockpit to the engine and other associated fuel system components were not recovered from the ocean floor, and the Crash Survivable Data Unit was crushed by extreme water pressure.

It’s tough down there.