A pilot of a US$100 million F-35B stealth fighter jet safely ejected from the aircraft after a malfunction and crash in South Carolina. The pilot landed in the backyard of a home while the plane crashed into a wooded area 60 miles away. The aircraft was found the next day by a state law enforcement helicopter. The pilot, who has not been identified, sustained minor injuries and has been discharged from the hospital.
The incident occurred during a routine training flight when the pilot experienced a malfunction at an altitude of 1000 feet. The cause of the malfunction is still under investigation. Authorities closed a one-mile road indefinitely as they search for the debris field.
The F-35B variant of the Joint Strike Fighter can hover, take off, and land vertically like a helicopter. It is equipped with an auto-ejecting seat to better protect pilots. The aircraft is built with coatings and designs that make it difficult to detect and has a non-functioning transponder.
The F-35B is part of the most expensive weapon system program in the US Department of Defense. The program is considering options for modernizing the engine due to maintenance costs and wear on the engine caused by increased heat.
As a result of the crash, the Marine Corps has paused aviation operations for two days to reinforce safe flying policies and procedures. This comes after three other “Class-A mishaps” in the past six weeks, which include damages over US$2.5 million, destruction of a Department of Defense aircraft, or death or permanent disability.
– The Associated Press