A US Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed several few miles outside Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday. The aircraft hit the ground near a residential area of National Harbor in Prince George’s county.
US Air Force officials stated that the pilot, flying with the 113th Fighter Wing, managed to eject seconds before impact. He was uninjured and was promptly picked up by base personnel and taken to a nearby hospital.
Base officials said the aircraft was flying along a second DC National Guard jet in a routine training mission when it suddenly lost control and thrust. The pilot contacted the base immediately and tried to regain control of the aircraft. However, he discovered that the engine had died and that he had no other choice but to abandon the aircraft and eject.
A witness from National Harbor told Fox News that he was sitting on his porch when he he hear a loud explosion, followed by sounds of falling debris. He said that the F-16 was on fire and that he could see the pilot ejecting and landing on the ground. “It was the biggest fireball I’ve ever seen in my life”, Patrick Dotson reported.
Immediately after hearing the crash, Dotson rushed into the woods to help the pilot. Fortunately, he was unharmed and was standing alone. The first thing that the pilot asked Dotson was whether anything in the neighborhood was damaged, since he was carrying live ammunition on board. During the pilot’s ejection and landing, the whole area was monitored by several US Air Force rescue helicopters which could be seen on a video captured by one of the residents.
Minutes after the crash, Prince George’s country police department blocked the area and conducted a search and rescue mission in order to check for potential unknown victims and damages. They concluded that, luckily, no house was damaged and no one got hurt. US Air Force and base personnel also arrived at the scene to recover the wreckage and gather witness reports.
So far, the exact cause of the crash is unknown. However, it is suspected to be an engine problem. This seems like the most likely scenario, given the fact that the F-16 has only one engine to power it. A full-scale military investigation was launched and Department of Defense officials said that they expect first results within the next week.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter. Built and designed in 1970’s by General Dynamics primarily for use by the US Air Force, it has been a standard workhorse of the Air Force for more than 40 years. It was also sold and exported to many other countries, mostly US allies and NATO members. During their service, several F-16’s were lost in peacetime accidents and crashes. However, the F-16 is still regarded as one of the safest and most reliable fighters currently used by the US Air Force.