Local News

Air Force finds human error in crash that killed two N.C.-based pilots

Posted December 1, 2009 12:24 p.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2009 12:40 p.m. EST

— An Air Force report found that human error caused the crash that killed two officers from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

On Tuesday, the Air Force released the results of its investigation into the crash of an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet during practice July 18 in Afghanistan.

Capt. Thomas J. Gramith, 27, of Eagan, Minn., and Capt. Mark R. McDowell, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo., died in the crash. They had been flying for several hours, providing air support to ground troops in the Ghazni Province when their plane went down around 3:15 a.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Both men were assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, which deployed in April and returned in September.

The Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board found that the lead weapons system officer assessed the altitude of a target at 4,800 feet when it was actually at 10,200 feet. Neither of the pilots recognized the mistake. Both were killed on impact, the report said.

McDowell, a native of Charlotte, was survived by his father in Adamsville, mother in Clemson, S.C., and grandparents in Sanford.

His wife is also in the Air Force. They would have celebrated their second wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving.

Rev. Gilbert McDowell, a pastor in Sanford, told WRAL News after the crash that he was not looking to place blame.

“It really doesn’t matter now as far as we’re concerned. We lost a grandson,” he said. “He was too young to die, but a lot of those men are too young to die."