USAF F-35 crashes and explodes into flames at end of runway near Salt Lake City base after the pilot ejected from the $80million fighter jet

  • The 388th Fighter Wing, based in Utah, confirmed on Wednesday that a F-35 had crashed at the end of the runway
  • The pilot of the $80 million fighter jet safely ejected, the USAF said in a tweet, and emergency crews were responding 
  • The cause of the crash is yet to be determined: photos from the scene showed smoke billowing into the sky 

An $80 million fighter jet crashed shortly after takeoff in Utah, bursting into flames after the pilot ejected.

The 388th Fighter Wing confirmed in a tweet on Wednesday the accident, and said emergency crews were responding.

‘An F-35 from the 388th crashed at the north end of the runway. Pilot ejected. Emergency crews are responding,’ they said.

The accident happened near Hill Air Force Base, 30 miles north of downtown Salt Lake City.

Large plumes of smoke were seen where the F-35 crashed, just outside of Salt Lake City

Flames could be seen from the downed plane in Utah on Wednesday

Flames could be seen from the downed plane in Utah on Wednesday

An F-35 is seen in action. The air base, Hill, is the second largest in the U.S. Air Force

An F-35 is seen in action. The air base, Hill, is the second largest in the U.S. Air Force

The crash could be seen for several miles across Utah

The crash could be seen for several miles across Utah

The base tweeted: ‘The pilot ejected, was recovered and has been taken to local medical center for observation. 

‘The cause of the crash is unknown and will be investigated. More information will be provided as it becomes available.’

Last week, the air base announced it was carrying out the ‘first of its kind, F-35 crash recovery course here’, which they said was using a newly-retired, now reassembled F-35A Lightning II.

They said the five-day course included 29 maintainers from across the F-35 program, sister services as well as F-35 partner nations. 

The training covered how to handle different scenarios safely and effectively, such as a collapsed nose gear, pilot extraction and aircraft hoisting.

‘This training is invaluable for not only our U.S. military, but also for our partner countries who operate the F-35,’ said Master Sgt. Andrew Wilkow, instructor and one of the course designers. 

‘Unfortunately, occasional mishaps take place, which necessitates having personnel properly trained on recovery procedures and how to safely accomplish these tasks.’

Smoke can be seen billowing from the crash site, 30 miles from downtown Salt Lake City

Smoke can be seen billowing from the crash site, 30 miles from downtown Salt Lake City

The pilot safely ejected from the $80 million fighter jet and has been taken to hospital for evaluation

The pilot safely ejected from the $80 million fighter jet and has been taken to hospital for evaluation

Training for these ‘worst-case’ types of scenarios takes an aircraft that can be roughed up a bit, he said.

‘It’s simply impossible to lift an operational jet with a crane, collapse the front landing gear and then set the nose of the aircraft on the ground without significant risk of damaging it,’ Wilkow said. 

‘Real-world, hands-on training can best be accomplished using a repurposed demonstration airframe.’

Hill Air Force Base is an Air Force Materiel Command base. 

It is the Air Force’s second largest base by population and geographical size.

There are 21,938 people working within Hill Air Force Base (5,014 military; 14,263 civilians, and 1,600 contractors).

The airspace is situated over 2.3 million acres of land and contains the largest block of overland contiguous special-use airspace in the continental United States. 

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