ZURICH (Reuters) - An air traffic controller gave a Swiss air force fighter pilot too low an altitude at which to fly moments before his jet slammed into a cloud-draped mountain last month, killing him, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.
Preliminary results of an investigation found the 27-year-old pilot was told to fly at 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) after losing radar contact with his team leader soon after takeoff. His F/A 18 fighter hit the mountain at around 3,300 meters.
The minimum safe altitude for flying in the sector was 14,300 feet, the ministry said.
"Why the air traffic controller ordered this too-low altitude and which influence this had on the further course of the flight is subject of the investigation," it said.
The crash was the third by a Swiss Air Force F/A 18 in the past three years. A Swiss F-5E air demonstration fighter jet collided with another plane and crashed into a pond in the northern Netherlands ahead of an air show in June.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Dominic Evans)