Fighter jet on training flight crashes in woods near Andrews.
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.
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.