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Thunderbirds Fighter Jet Crashes in Colorado Springs; Pilot Ejects Safely 

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Old 06-02-2016, 09:41 PM
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Thunderbirds Fighter Jet Crashes in Colorado Springs; Pilot Ejects Safely

Minutes after his team streaked over President Obama and Air Force Academy cadets at a graduation ceremony on Thursday, the pilot of a Thunderbirds fighter jet maneuvered his plane away from homes as it crashed into a field near Colorado Springs.

The pilot, Maj. Alex Turner, walked away after safely ejecting into a neighborhood, and no one on the ground was hurt. The F-16 went down in the Security-Widefield area about 1 p.m., approximately five miles south of Peterson Air Force base, where it was headed. The white jet was upright and largely intact after skidding to a stop.

The crash was one of two involving the military’s best-known precision flying demonstration teams after a Blue Angels pilot from Colorado died in a fiery wreck while taking off from an airport near Nashville, Tenn.

Obama briefly met with the pilot who crashed near Colorado Springs, shaking hands with Turner before departing on Air Force One. Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the president “thanked the pilot for his service,” according to a pool report.

Benjamin Newell, spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Combat Command in Langley, Va., said he was unable to release specifics about the crash, citing an ongoing investigation.

Turner radioed he was having trouble with the jet and trying to direct it away from homes before the crash, said Lt. Col. Christopher Hammond, commander of the Thunderbirds.

“The flight condition of the aircraft when the pilot abandoned it was he was preparing for landing,” Hammond said at a news conference. “He had already put his gear down.”

“The aircraft did not catch fire,” said Jeff Bohn, a Peterson spokesman.

Hazardous-materials teams from the Air Force base and from Colorado Springs were dispatched. The Thunderbirds said there was no hazard to the public.


Bohn said the aircraft’s relatively good condition after the crash is a testament to the pilot’s ability.

President Barack Obama, center, meets with Thunderbird pilot Maj. Alex Turner at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., Thursday, June 2, 2016, before returning to Washington after the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.President Barack Obama, center, meets with Thunderbird pilot Maj. Alex Turner at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs on Thursday.
Christian Murdock, The Gazette via AP, Pool
An ejection is a last resort for fighter pilots that can put them at serious risk for injury because of the tremendous force and speed it takes to abandon an aircraft.

“It’s a very traumatic event,” Newell said.

This photo tweeted by KRDO as shared by Lindsay Diaz shows a downed Thunderbird near Powers and Fontaine in Colorado Springs. (Provided by KRDO)This photo tweeted by KRDO, as shared by Lindsay Diaz, shows a downed Thunderbird near Powers and Fontaine in Colorado Springs.
Provided by KRDO
Newell said it’s extremely rare for a Thunderbirds pilot to crash, saying they are among the best pilots in the Air Force and are chosen specifically because of their ability.

“This is a very rare thing for them and in the Air Force overall,” Newell said.

Hammond said the last time a Thunderbirds jet crashed was September 2003 during an air show in Idaho.

Air Force reports from that crash concluded the cause had been pilot error. No one was injured.

Air Combat Command said Turner is undergoing a medical checkup, which is standard procedure following an ejection. He was recovered by an Army helicopter that was in the area as part of Obama’s security.

Major Alex Turner. United States Air Force Thunderbirds.Maj. Alex Turner
United States Air Force
Turner was flying aircraft No. 6 in the Thunderbirds fleet. The Marine pilot who died in the Blue Angels crash, Capt. Jeff Kuss, also was flying aircraft No. 6 on his team.

The Thunderbirds’ website says Turner earned his commission in 2005 and has logged more than 1,200 flight hours as an Air Force pilot, with more than 270 combat hours over Libya and Iraq, according to the site.

Turner is in his first season with the team and hails from Chelmsford, Mass. He joined the Thunderbirds in October and has flown 22 air shows with the fleet since.

The Thunderbirds fly F-16s made in 1991 or 1992. Each one costs about $36 million. The team will be grounded for an undetermined period.

The next scheduled Thunderbirds show was Saturday at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Military officials said the flyover at the Air Force Academy’s graduation went completely as planned and that Turner’s aircraft showed no signs of problems before it went down. After the jets concluded their display over Falcon Stadium, they banked east and flew off into the distance without any sign of trouble.

Turner’s jet came to rest in a field near the intersection of Fontaine and Powers boulevards, just south of the Colorado Springs airport.

Peter Siegrist said he was driving toward his home about 1 p.m. when he saw the Thunderbirds coming in for a landing.

“They were coming, one by one, over our housing area to make their final turn, and we counted five airplanes,” he said. “The sixth airplane we didn’t see. (Then) we saw a bit of white smoke in the sky, and I thought I saw a canopy of a parachute.”

Siegrist said he rushed to the area and found the F-16 crashed in a field. He said there were no loud noises to indicate what brought the plane down.

Siegrist said the pilot’s actions were “heroic” and undoubtedly saved lives. He said the crash site is surrounded by hundreds of homes, including his own.

“He made a conscious effort to direct his aircraft away from some of the local neighborhoods,” Hammond said of Turner.

“I watched them one at a time go into their landing pattern,” said Diana Russell, who witnessed the crash. “The last one I saw didn’t stay on the same flight path. He went out further east and further south. And then I saw a flame on the top of the airplane, and I saw something come out of the jet.”

Then she realized the pilot had ejected. The plane was heading right for her home, she said, but then it turned toward the field it eventually crashed in.

“It started coming down really fast,” Russell said. “I was just waiting for the big boom and fireball, but I didn’t hear anything.”

She said she was amazed at how little damage the jet seemed to suffer. Russell described it as just “parking in the middle of a field.”

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Old 06-02-2016, 11:00 PM
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Re: Thunderbirds Fighter Jet Crashes in Colorado Springs; Pilot Ejects Safely

Fortunate

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Old 06-11-2016, 01:28 AM
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Re: Thunderbirds Fighter Jet Crashes in Colorado Springs; Pilot Ejects Safely

Quote:
Originally Posted by a175 View Post
Fortunate
Lucky indeed ,, strang the way the jet came down with only minimal damage ??

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