Release Number: 020915
9/8/2015 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- Spatial
disorientation and a loss of visual contact with his formation's lead
aircraft led to an F-16C pilot's fatal impact into the Gulf of Mexico on
Nov. 6, 2014, according to an Air Combat Command Accident Investigation
Board report released today.
Matthew J. LaCourse, a civilian employee with the 82nd Aerial Targets
Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., was killed by the impact and
his aircraft was destroyed.
According to the results of the investigation, the mishap occurred
during intercept training with another aircraft. While attempting to
intercept the other aircraft, LaCourse performed a series of aircraft
dynamic maneuvers that stimulated fluid in his inner ear canals which
are responsible for perceptions of gravity, balance, movement and
direction. As a result, he misperceived his angle of bank, angle of
pitch and general position and became spatially disoriented, which
resulted in his crash. In addition, the board president found by a
preponderance of the evidence that LaCourse's loss of visual contact
with the formation's lead aircraft substantially contributed to the
The total loss to government property was valued at $22 million. There was no damage to private property.