Thursday, June 2, 2016

General Dynamics F-16CM Fighting Falcon, United States Air Force Thunderbirds: Accident occurred June 02, 2016 near City of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (KCOS), El Paso County, Colorado

Kathryn's Report:

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. -  The pilot of a plane that crashed near Security-Widefield Thursday was not injured, according to Air Combat Command.

The F-16 crashed in a field near S. Powers Boulevard and Fontaine Boulevard. The Thunderbirds were returning to Peterson Air Force Base after performing at the Air Force Academy graduation when the crash happened.

Despite the crash, the plane is intact and did not start a fire. The nose of the plane appears buckled.

People were being kept away from the wreckage because of a Hydrazine leak. Hydrazine is a type of jet fuel. 

A source tells KRDO NewsChannel 13 that there are no signs of foul play and terrorism is not suspected as a cause.

The source says the jets are built with secret technology, and the Air Force will be careful to make sure each and every piece that may have shaken loose from the plane is recovered.

The source says the pilot intentionally went down in an open field to avoid any homes, businesses or schools.

We're told the pilot of the downed jet was Maj. Alex Turner. Turner has logged 1200 flight hours and 270 combat hours in Libya and Iraq.

Turner is from Chelmsford, Mass., which is about 30 miles northwest of Boston.

Turner's mom, Ann Turner, spoke to ABC affiliate WCVB about the crash Thursday. "He's pretty well trained. He has a lot of experience. I'm just relieved that he is OK," she said.

The Air Force said in a news release that it will quote "perform a thorough investigation into the causes of the mishap, and those findings will be released when the investigation is complete."

Powers Boulevard remains closed in both directions between Bradley Road and Fontaine Boulevard.

Story and video: 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) A Thunderbird pilot was able to parachute to safety after aircraft issues caused his jet to begin going down in the Security-Widefield area Thursday afternoon.

The crash happened immediately following the annual Thunderbird performance at the Air Force Academy graduation. Witnesses say the plane crashed in a field near the Powers and Fontaine intersection, across the street from First Baptist Church-Peaceful Valley.

The aircraft was on its final approach to the Colorado Springs Airport, according to Peterson Air Force Base spokesperson Jeff Bohn.

"The indication that we have is that we received there radio-wise is that he did have an issue with the aircraft and that he was getting out of the aircraft," Thunderbirds spokesperson Christopher Hammond said.

Hammond said the pilot was close to a residential area when he started having problems.

"He tried made a conscious effort to maneuver his aircraft away from neighborhoods," he said.

The pilot, identified as Maj. Alex Turner, was able to land the jet intact -- despite ejecting.

"It was slow speed, it was close to the ground [prior to crashing] looks like it impacted the ground, skidded a was a total aircraft [after landing]."

"I think it is a testament to the exceptional pilotism of our Air Force Thunderbird pilot," Bohn said.

Photos from one 11 News viewer show Turner safely following his aircraft via parachute into the field. An Army helicopter supporting the Secret Service picked Turner up and took him to Peterson Air Force Base for medical observation.

"After he ejected from the aircraft, we did confirm from one of our aircrafts that we kept airborne that he was OK on the ground, in terms of being able to walk around on his own accord. He also met with some bystanders, and then as far as when he arrived at Peterson Air Force Base I was able to see him in person and...I had no cause for concern," Hammond said.

According to a bio on the Thunderbirds website, Turner is in his first year with the team, but has ample experience flying with the military. The bio states he has logged 1,200 flight hours as an Air Force pilot and more than 270 combat hours over Libya and Iraq.

Turner flies in the number six position when in formation, according to Hammond.

Powers remains closed between Bradley and Mesa Ridge Parkway, while Fontaine is closed between Goldfield and Sleepy Meadows. People are being kept away from the area around the crash site has a precaution due to Hydrozene, a chemical that can be hazardous to skin and eyes. The site has to mitigated to ensure there is no risk, according to El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

A minor issue compared to how terrible the crash could have been: news out of Tennessee that a U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilot was killed in a crash underscored the tragedy averted in Colorado.

Original article can be found here:

An F-16 fighter jet of the Air Force Thunderbirds flying team crashed south of Colorado Springs minutes after wrapping up an air show over the Air Force Academy graduation Thursday.

The pilot of jet No. 6 safely ejected about 1:15 p.m., Air Force sources said.

The jet crashed in a field across from the First Baptist Church in the Security/Widefield area, at 7925 Fontaine Blvd. The plane was leaking fuel, and authorities were pushing people back from the area. Nearby roads were closed. A reverse 911 call was sent out to area residents to keep people indoors.

The pilot, Maj. Alex Turner, met with President Barack Obama before the president flew out of Peterson Air Force Base about 2:10 p.m. Obama, in Colorado Springs to give the commencement speech at the academy, stopped his motorcade and shook hands with Turner moments before boarding Air Force One.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the president "thanked the pilot for his service to the country and expressed his relief that the pilot was not seriously injured." The president also thanked the first responders who "acted quickly to tend to the pilot."

Air Force Academy sources said Turner's plane engine failed. The official cause of the crash is under investigation.

Turner joined the Thunderbirds in 2015 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 flying team's website. Before joining the Thunderbirds, Turner, from Chelmsford, Mass., served as an F-16 instructor pilot at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Turner is a solo pilot for the team, showing off the F-16's performance while flashing past the group's four-plane diamond formation.

Turner was on the final approach to a runway when Peterson Air Force Base received reports of an aircraft down, said Jeff Bohn, a base spokesman. Turner ejected a few hundred feet from the crash.

Alexander Rodriguez told The Gazette he heard two loud bangs and looked up to see the Thunderbird slowly gliding 40 to 50 feet above the ground.

"I immediately knew that it was going to crash," Rodriguez said.

It hit the ground in a field northeast of Fountain and Powers boulevards and slid 100 to 150 feet. The front of the aircraft appeared to bend backward before the plane came to a rest.

"Our first thought was the pilot - I didn't see him eject at all," Rodriguez said. "So I wasn't sure if he was still in the aircraft or not. So that was my first thought."

The jet appeared to stop largely intact - only the front end of it appeared damaged and a rear wing was broken, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said he ran to the plane, passing debris and plane parts littering the field. He checked the cockpit and found it empty.

"I was relieved the pilot was OK," he said.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez's brother and father ran to where they thought the pilot landed. They found him, apparently having escaped severe injury, Rodriguez said, relaying information from his relatives.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who watched the Thunderbirds show from Falcon Stadium, took to Twitter to express gratitude for Turner's safety.

"My thoughts are with the pilot, their family and friends and all @AFThunderbirds," James wrote. "Glad to hear pilot is safe."

The Thunderbirds incident wasn't Thursday's only plane crash. A U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet crashed about 3 p.m. in Smyrna, Tenn. One person was killed. 

The last Thunderbirds crash happened on Aug. 20, 2005, over Lake Michigan during the Chicago Air & Water Show. During the mid-air incident, the missile tip on the right wing of one aircraft made contact with an adjacent plane's left stabilizer, snapping off a 4-foot section of the missile rail, which fell into Lake Michigan. No injuries were reported.

For generations, the Thunderbirds have flown over the academy's graduation without incident. The planes routinely are pressed to their limits, with maneuvers that can subject the aircraft to more than nine times the force of gravity.

Rodriguez said he wasn't surprised the aircraft appeared to hit the ground with minimal force, leaving it largely intact. He praised the pilot.

"They're trained for events like this, what to do ," Rodriguez said, "That's only the best pilots in the Air Force who fly the Thunderbirds."


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