USAF Reveals Mysterious Crash Occurred Just A Day Before Two A-10s Crashed In Same Area

The previously unreported crash took the life of a highly experienced test pilot under murky circumstances.

AF-1 Flt; Capt Eric "DOC" Schultz; First F-35 Flight; Pre-flt &
Darin Russell—2011 Lockheed Martin Photography by Darin Russell

Two A-10 Warthogs crashed at around 8pm Wednesday evening while on a training mission over the expansive Nevada Test and Training Range in southern Nevada. Thankfully both pilots made it out alive from that incident but the exact circumstances surrounding it remain unknown. Now the USAF has noted that yet another previously undisclosed crash occurred on the range just a day before, at around 6pm on September 5th. This crash seems more mysterious outright as it took the life of an experienced test pilot and the type of aircraft involved in the mishap remains undisclosed. All we know is that it belonged to the Air Force Material Command.

The pilot that died in the tragic incident has been listed as Lt. Col. Eric Schultz. Schultz was a civilian flight engineer before joining the USAF in 2001 and his dream was to become an astronaut. You can read all about the unique path he took to realize his fighter jet flying dream here

Schultz graduated from the USAF's elite Test Pilot School in 2008. In 2011 he become the 28th pilot to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and participated in the test program during its darkest developmental period to date. This was a very experienced and professional aviator to say the least and his death is a huge loss to the USAF, let alone his family and friends.

The crash is said to have occurred roughly 100 miles north of Las Vegas, deep within the Nevada Test and Training Range. The fact that the aircraft was owned by the Air Force Material Command likely means that it was likely a test aircraft, which could be anything from an F-16 to an F-35s to a exotic and highly classified test article to a foreign fighter jet. 

The fact that the USAF won't disclose the type of aircraft involved in the mishap is somewhat of a red flag and points to the possibility that the airframe could have been sensitive in nature. As for the F-35, those based at Nellis AFB are owned by Air Combat Command, but F-35s based at Edwards AFB are largely owned by Air Force Material Command. These aircraft can and do use the Nellis Range Complex for testing purposes. It remains unclear what program or unit Schultz was assigned to when the crash occurred. 

Finlay McWalter/wikicommons

Obviously Area 51 and Tonopah Test Range Airport are both in the vicinity of where the crash supposedly occurred. Both installations are legendary for their classified aircraft programs. The delay in the disclosure of the crash could have been due to the sensitive nature of what was being flown and from where. That combined with the pilot's skills and what command owned the aircraft being tested, make the mishap suspicious. 

We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.  

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com