Fighter jet on train­ing flight crashes in woods near An­drews.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY JU­LIA BROUIL­LETTE AND RYAN M. MCDER­MOTT This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

A jet fighter pilot fly­ing with train­ing am­mu­ni­tion ex­pe­ri­enced a “me­chan­i­cal is­sue” with his air­craft, steered it to­ward a wooded area and ejected safely be­fore it crashed near Joint Base An­drews in Prince Ge­orge’s County, Air Force of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

Nei­ther the pilot nor any­one on the ground was in­jured in the mishap.

Fly­ing an F-16C “Fight­ing Fal­con,” the pilot was tak­ing part in a rou­tine train­ing mis­sion and was car­ry­ing 2,200 pounds of fuel in each of its dual tanks when the me­chan­i­cal is­sue oc­curred shortly af­ter tak­ing off from the base Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Air Force of­fi­cials said. The pilot swiftly jet­ti­soned the fuel and di­rected the jet away from a heav­ily pop­u­lated area be­fore eject­ing him­self from the cock­pit.

“We’re talk­ing sec­onds, we’re not talk­ing min­utes,” Lt. Col. Michael Cro­ker of the 113th Wing of the D.C. Air Na­tional Guard told re­porters at Joint Base An­drews. “That’s a tes­ta­ment to our train­ing.”

Lt. Cro­ker, the pilot’s com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, said that he had spo­ken with the avi­a­tor and had given him a “bro hug.”

Of­fi­cials said the pilot will not be iden­ti­fied un­til af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the cause of the crash is com­pleted.

Brig. Gen. Ge­orge Deg­non, com­man­der of the 113th Wing, said the F-16 was one of sev­eral air­craft that were fly­ing with live rounds that were to be fired on nearby train­ing grounds.

Of­fi­cials said the air­craft’s “train­ing” rounds are real bul­lets but lack the ar­mor­pierc­ing and ex­plo­sive punch of ac­tual com­bat am­mu­ni­tion.

“When we train, we don’t use high ex­plo­sive rounds or high ex­plo­sive bombs,” Gen. Deg­non said, adding that the pilot was treated and re­leased from a hospi­tal and “word is he’s in good spir­its.”

The sin­gle-en­gine, su­per­sonic air­craft crashed about 9:15 a.m. Wed­nes­day be­tween two neigh­bor­hoods, about 200 yards from homes, in the area of Tem­ple Hill Road and Wood­ells Court in Clin­ton, mil­i­tary and county of­fi­cials said.

“It’s very for­tu­nate,” Prince Ge­orge’s County Fire Chief Ben Barks­dale told re­porters Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. “With a very heav­ily, densely pop­u­lated area … for the pilot to be able to eject and not be in­jured, and for the plane to go down in a wooded area.”

County of­fi­cials said the crash ig­nited a small fire that was quickly ex­tin­guished.

As a pre­cau­tion against ex­po­sure to haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als, res­i­dents in the im­me­di­ate area were evac­u­ated to Clin­ton Grove El­e­men­tary School, which did not close dur­ing the crash and its af­ter­math. Evac­uees later were al­lowed to re­turn to their homes.

Crys­tal Hollingsworth, who lives near the crash site and had to evac­u­ate, told The Associated Press that she heard a “huge crash” fol­lowed by the sound of “live rounds.”

Her hus­band, Tony Hollingsworth, said the “house shook” and he also heard the sound of gun­shots in the woods, some­thing that “sounded like a shootout.” He said it lasted for “10 to 15 min­utes.”

Mrs. Hollingsworth said pieces of the plane fell in her neigh­bor’s yard, dam­ag­ing some of the home’s sid­ing. She said there were prob­a­bly more than a dozen metal frag­ments, maybe about half an inch thick. Pieces from the crash ranged in size, some about the size of a TV re­mote or a book. She said one was marked “con­fi­den­tial.” Some of the de­bris was still burn­ing when she saw it.

Fire de­part­ment spokesman Mark Brady said in a tweet that res­i­dents who find any­thing they be­lieve to be a part of the air­craft should not touch or move it. They should call Joint Base An­drews at 240-857-8685.

Gen. Deg­non said an in­terim safety board has been cre­ated to col­lect ev­i­dence and to de­ter­mine cause of the crash.

The next phase of re­sponse will be as­sess­ing any dam­age to prop­erty and the en­vi­ron­ment, he said.

The 113th Wing of the D.C. Air Na­tional Guard pro­tects the na­tion cap­i­tal’s airspace and de­ploys on global mis­sions.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A fighter jet crashed in Clin­ton, Mary­land near Joint Base An­drews on Wed­nes­day. The mil­i­tary said the fighter jet pilot ejected safely be­fore the crash.

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