An official stated that the pilot of the F-35 stealth fighter jet, which crashed, safely landed in a residential backyard using a parachute.

The pilot of a stealth fighter jet worth $100 million successfully used a parachute to land in the backyard of a residence in South Carolina. This occurred after a malfunction occurred, leading the pilot to eject from the aircraft. As a result, the plane crashed into a wooded area approximately 60 miles from the location.

A U.S. Marine Corps official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the investigation into Sunday’s crash told The Associated Press that the aircraft was not found until the next day. A state law enforcement helicopter located the jet and debris around 5 p.m. Monday in a field near Indiantown, South Carolina.

The Marine Corps has not disclosed the identity of the pilot, but they have confirmed that the pilot did not sustain any major injuries and has been released from the hospital.

“I cannot reword”

A trip that began as a routine training flight did not last very long. The pilot “experienced a malfunction and was forced to eject” on Sunday at an altitude of about 1,000 feet just 1 mile north of Charleston International Airport, according to a situation report given to AP by the Marine Corps official.

On Tuesday, there were still more unanswered questions than resolved ones regarding the circumstances that led to an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter leaving behind a debris field, which was described as “extensive” by the local sheriff’s department. As officials continued their search for any wreckage in rural Williamsburg County, they decided to indefinitely close approximately one mile of road. Residents were urged to steer clear of the area while a recovery team made efforts to secure it.

On Sunday, authorities at the federal, state, and local levels collaborated to search for the airplane. The military also reached out to the public for assistance in locating the aircraft, which is designed to avoid being detected.

The Marine Corps confirmed that the pilot of another F-35 safely returned to the base on Sunday. Both aircraft had taken off earlier in the day for a routine training flight.

Mark Cancian, a retired Marine Corps Reserves colonel and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained that in a military aviation incident involving multiple aircraft, it is customary for the remaining aircraft to remain at the scene. Their purpose is to ensure the safety of the pilot and gather information about the crash location.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was designed in three variants. There is the F-35A Air Force version and the Navy’s F-35C, which is equipped for carrier takeoffs and landings. Then there’s the Marine Corps’ F-35B variant, which can hover and take off and land vertically like a helicopter. The aircraft involved in Sunday’s crash was an F-35B, the Marines said.

Each variant has an ejection seat. The Marine Corps’ variant has a specialized seat that can auto eject to better protect pilots in case an incident occurs while the plane is in hover mode. An F-35B crashed last December in Fort Worth while descending in hover mode and the pilot safely ejected.

Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson at Joint Base Charleston, told NBC News that the jet was flying in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected from the aircraft. Huggins told The Washington Post on Sunday that the warplane “has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect.” He added that the jet’s transponder was not working for an undetermined reason.

According to Joint Base Charleston, Huggins will not respond to inquiries on Monday as the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing is now handling communication regarding the incident. The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing informed AP that there is an ongoing investigation and declined to provide further information.

According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office in May 2023, the jet is part of the costliest weapon system program in the U.S. Department of Defense. The report states that the Department of Defense is considering ways to update the engine, as it is currently operating beyond its intended limits due to excessive demand on the cooking system.

According to the report, the additional heat is causing more damage to the engine, leading to a decrease in its lifespan and resulting in maintenance expenses of $38 billion.

On Monday, the Marine Corps declared a temporary halt to aviation operations for a duration of two days following the crash of a fighter jet. The announcement revealed that within the past six weeks, three incidents classified as “Class-A mishaps” had taken place. These mishaps are defined by damages exceeding $2.5 million, destruction of a Department of Defense aircraft, or the occurrence of fatalities or permanent disabilities.

According to the release on Monday, commanders will use the stand-down period to strengthen safe flying policies, practices, and procedures with their Marines.

No information was provided in the announcement regarding the two previous occurrences. However, in August, a training exercise in Australia resulted in the death of three U.S. Marines due to a crash involving a V-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Additionally, a Marine Corps pilot lost his life during a training flight near a San Diego base when his combat jet crashed.

Copp provided input from Washington, D.C. Pollard is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit organization that deploys journalists to local newsrooms to cover neglected topics.

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