PARIS — An engine failure at takeoff led to Monday's deadly crash of the Greek Air Force F-16, which killed 11 personnel at a NATO air base in Spain, French air chief Gen. Denis Mercier said on Thursday.
"What we know is that the F-16 crew, fairly quickly, right after the takeoff, tried to eject," Mercier told journalists. Nine of the personnel lost were French, while the two Greek pilots lost their lives.
"It is an incredibly improbable accident to have an aircraft that has an engine breakdown at takeoff, flies sharply off course and falls right on top of aircraft which are getting ready to fly, so are full of fuel," he said. "It is a series of unlucky events."
No details were given of the cause of engine failure.
The French Air Force will continue to send pilots to Albacete air base, which operates as a NATO training site, he said.
It was such an extremely rare accident and one that led to the fighter hitting aircraft lined up for taking off, he said.
"One is luck, the other enormously bad luck," he said. There was not much more to be done on boosting safety, he said.
A crash inquiry has been launched and the F-16's black boxes have been recovered, he said.
Among the aircraft hit by the F-16 were two French Alpha jets and two Mirage 2000-D fighters.
The pilots were taking part in advanced multinational training in the NATO Tactical Leadership Program, based at the Spanish air base.