Wisconsin State Journal – Chris Hubbuch | Jun 25, 2020
Two F-16 fighter jets circled the Madison airport at low altitude Tuesday after a faulty warning light led a Wisconsin Air National Guard pilot to cancel his planned mission.
According to a statement from the Wisconsin Air National Guard, the pilot landed safely after a caution light went on during a routine flight from Truax Field.
The pilot did not declare an in-flight emergency but decided to land “out of an abundance of caution,” said Capt. Leslie Westmont, a spokeswoman for the 115th Fighter Wing.
Westmont said the pilot circled the airport to burn off excess fuel in order to land safely. A second pilot followed the plane through the landing.
Westmont said a subsequent check found no other problems with the jet.
“It was just the light. The light came on and then went off,” she said. “He decided to come back and make sure there was nothing wrong.”
Westmont said there have been no other changes to the Fighter Wing’s operations, which typically involve jets taking off from Truax in the morning and again in the afternoon for training exercises over western Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs disclosed the incident in an email sent Wednesday to former state Rep. Chris Taylor, who had asked why the Air National Guard was performing maneuvers over residential areas.
“We take the safety of our pilots, aircraft and communities seriously,” wrote Michael Hinman, who serves as executive assistant to Adjutant General Paul Knapp. “The precautionary measures taken during this event ensured a safe landing without incident.”
Taylor, D-Madison, said she received numerous complaints from constituents in her East Side district who said the noise lasted for an hour and a half; one constituent called the incident an “obscenely irresponsible stunt.”
Taylor, who recently announced she is resigning from the Legislature on Aug. 1 after being appointed as a Dane County judge, was one of the leading opponents of Air Force plans to replace the 115th’s aging F-16s with a squadron of F-35 jets, which are scheduled to begin arriving in 2023.
“It is really scary that a malfunctioning jet was circling our neighborhoods for that long, and just underscores the fact that they don’t belong in densely populated areas,” Taylor wrote in an email to fellow F-35 opponents.
Editor’s Note: The story was updated to clarify that Taylor’s constituent called the incident an “obscenely irresponsible stunt.”