U.S. Air Pressure Settles with Household of Contractor Killed By F-16 in Coaching Train

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U.S. Air Force Settles with Family of Contractor Killed By F-16 in Training Exercise

Charles Holbrook was killed after an F-16 student pilot held a number of rental cars for a demonstration target.

The family of a military contractor who was accidentally killed by an F-16 pilot has reached a settlement with the US Air Force.

According to The Aviationist's coverage of the trial, Charles Holbrook – aka Chuck – died on Jan 31, 2017 after a student pilot streamlined his location in a failed training exercise.

Holbrook's wife, Belen, filed an unlawful death lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force in December 2018, naming two unidentified F-16 pilots – an instructor and a student – as co-defendants.

Holbrook, a retired sergeant and business development manager for Sensors Unlimited, had been invited by the US Air Force to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Holbrook was supposed to demonstrate a laser imaging device to Dutch airmen.

The purpose of the exercise, the lawsuit said, was to show how such laser imaging systems could work in an "air support scenario" in which F-16 fighter jets would attack an enemy position with live ammunition when "friendly matches" were in would be close. There were four jets in the air – 2 instructors and 2 student pilots, each in their own F-16s – and 10 people on the ground, some of whom (sic) trained to direct air support fire. "

However, the exercise was a first for the student pilots who had never flown night-time live ammunition exercises.

Unfortunately, one of the student pilots appears to have confused Holbrook's position with that of the intended target.

The intended target, says The Aviationist, was a "line of vehicles on a field circle".

An F-16A takes off from a National Guard base in North Dakota. Picture by: (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David H. Lipp, 119th Communications Flight). (CCA-BY-2.0).

"The observers and civilian Charles Holbrook were in an almost identical configuration to the target less than half a mile from the target – a line of rental vehicles on a dirt lane with a road north of the county," the lawsuit said. "At night, in the dark, these two targets would look the same."

One of the student pilots then tightened the group of rental cars.

"Holbrook was killed when an F-16 student pilot mistook the rental car line for the similarly oriented target," the lawsuit said. “(The student pilot) was ordered to shoot the group, blow up one of the rental cars, and hit Holbrook in the head with a 20mm round. Holbrook died in hospital a few hours later. "

The Alamogordo Daily News notes that Belen Holbrook and the US Air Force reached an agreement during an October 14 telephone hearing overseen by US Judge Stephen Vidmar.

While initial reports indicated that Holbrook's family would receive approximately $ 25 million in damages, outlets – including the Alamogordo Daily News – have since reported that the actual number is "lower" and "confidential".

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