U.S. Air Force officials said that the mechanical problem that forced the pilot of an F-16 based at Eielson Air Force Base to land at the Bethel Airport in September 2020 was a malfunction of the engine’s oil system.
A safety investigation conducted by the Air Force identified the oil system problem as the cause of the malfunction that led the pilot of the F-16 to declare an in-flight emergency and land the jet in Bethel on Sept. 22. The plane had been returning from a training exercise around Guam.
A statement issued by Eielson Air Force Base’s chief safety officer in February 2021 said that the pilot of the jet activated the aircraft’s Emergency Power Unit before landing in Bethel.
A second F-16 that was returning from the training exercise also landed in Bethel, as is required by Air Force protocol. Both jets remained there until a team of aviation-maintenance specialists flew to Bethel and repaired the malfunction. The jet returned to Eielson in early October 2020.
Eielson officials thanked Bethel police and fire personnel and community leaders for their help during the incident, along with assistance from members of the Alaska National Guard’s detachment in Bethel.