Then U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class David Schmitz, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, prepares pallets for an air drop mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom aboard a C-17 Globemaster III over Afghanistan, Sept. 18, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris
A 2020 crash of an F-16 “Viper” has revealed that some of the components in the deceased pilot’s ejection seat may have been counterfeit parts.
When First Lt. David Schmitz was killed after his F-16CM slammed into the ground after a failed night landing at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, the 32-year-old’s failure to eject was investigated with great scrutiny.
Following an inquiry, it was revealed that the electronics within the seat appeared to be of the quality one might expect from a third-world sweatshop.
The “electronics inside the seat were scratched, unevenly sanded and showed otherwise shoddy craftsmanship,” Air Force Times reports.
The Air Force Research Laboratory immediately looked into the matter and noted that the components were so poorly assembled, that they were likely counterfeit.
While the USAF quietly buried the matter in non-public areas of the report, the widow of Schmitz, Valerie, is now suing three defense companies for negligence and misleading the Air Force.
“What the military does is inherently dangerous to begin with,” plaintiff attorney Jim Brauchle told the Air Force Times on Tuesday. “If you’re going to be engaging in that kind of activity, you want to be doing it with equipment that’s going to work.”
Schmitz’s seat shot 130 feet in the air, before the Teledyne components reportedly failed, resulting in a gruesome death- the lieutenant rode his seat to the ground with no parachute deployed.
While Schmitz died on impact, the loss remains and Brachule argues that the USAF’s initial choice to blame the pilot and his supervisor was not the correct -or right- choice.
“What ultimately killed him was the ejection seat failure,” he said. “It has only one job, and that’s to get the pilot out and to get out a [parachute].”
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