F-16 First Accidental Flight On Jan 20th, 1974

F-16 First Accidental Flight On Jan 20th, 1974 | Frontline Videos

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A Wobbly Start

The YF-16 was an aircraft prototype that eventually became the iconic F-16 Fighting Falcon we know and love today. However, this aircraft got off to a rocky start after a YF-16 pilot accidentally took off during the jet’s high-speed ground tests.

Test pilot Phil Oestricher was manning the YF-16 at Edwards Air Force Base on January 20, 1974. He was accelerating down the runway when he raised the nose a bit and applied a slight pressure to the aileron control. To his surprise, the aircraft entered a “roll oscillation,” forcing its left wing and right stabilator to strike the surface of the runway.

Oestricher tried to maintain control of the aircraft until he finally elected to jam the throttle forward to get the prototype into the air. Through sheer luck and excellent piloting skills, Oestricher somehow got the YF-16 airborne for six minutes. 

This incident was the unofficial maiden flight of the aircraft. Its official first flight took place almost two weeks after the incident, with Phils Oestricher again at the controls.


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