Air Force F-35 Crashes, Explodes Into Flames at Salt Lake City Base After Pilot Ejects

by Shelby Scott
(Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

One of the U.S. Air Force’s $80 million fighter jets crashed and burst into flames at a Salt Lake City, Utah base on Wednesday. While smoke billowing from the crash could be seen in neighborhoods across the city, officials report that the pilot of the F-35 jet managed to safely eject before the craft crash-landed.

The 388th Fighter Wing confirmed news of the crash in a Twitter post.

“An F-35 from the 388th crashed at the north end of the runway,” the tweet read. “Pilot ejected. Emergency crews are responding.”

According to the Daily Mail, the crash took place near Hill Air Force Base, which is 30 miles north of downtown Salt Lake City. So far, authorities have not determined a cause behind the crash, though an investigation has begun.

The Air Force base itself provided further information both about the jet’s crash and the pilot’s condition afterward.

“The pilot ejected, was recovered and has been taken to [a] local medical center for attention,” their social media post read. “The cause of the crash is unknown and will be investigated. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”

Bystanders to the crash posted photos and tweets, both capturing the smoke from the jet’s landing and wishing the pilot well.

Hill Air Force Base Had Been Conducting Training Session Prior to Crash

One local captured a video of the smoke, highlighting the intensity of the crash. They wrote on Twitter, “I hope the pilot was able to eject in time. Happened right in front of me while mowing lawn.”

Fortunately, locals received confirmation soon after the crash that the pilot had safely ejected. But before the incident took place, the air force base announced that it was planning on conducting a “first of its kind, F-35 crash recovery course.”

Altogether, the course spans five days and includes 29 maintainers from across the F-35 program. These incorporate both sister services and F-35 partner nations.

Master Sgt. Andrew Wilkow, instructor and course designer, said the training covers how to handle different situations safely and effectively, pointing out that the best crafts to use are ones that can be “roughed up a bit.” Cue the F-35.

Wilkow said, “Unfortunately, occasional mishaps take place, which necessitates having personnel properly trained on recovery procedures and how to safely accomplish these tasks…Real-world, hands-on training can be best accomplished using a repurposed demonstration frame.”

Per the outlet, Hill Air Force Base is an Air Force Material Command base. It’s also the second largest among the military branch both in size and population. Its air space alone is situated over 2.3 million acres of land. the base employs more than 21,000 individuals, including 5,014 military personnel, 14,263 civilians, and 1,600 contractors.