Fighter jet crashes after military school exercise

Associated Press

North Las Vegas, Nev. — An official says a veteran pilot had just completed an exercise with a military weapons school at an Air Force base near Las Vegas when he ejected as the plane went down.

The pilot had just finished a combat training exercise that typically lasts about an hour and a half when he self-ejected as he was returning to Nellis Air Force Base, Draken International’s Scott Poteet said.

The man who has more than two decades of fighter pilot experience was alone in a Skyhawk jet opposite Nellis’ weapons school trainees early Thursday. He was hospitalized with minor injuries and is expected to be released later in the day. The pilot’s name has not been released.

A base spokesman said the crash involving the civilian contractor aircraft happened about 7:40 a.m. Thursday on public land adjacent to the base.

Draken is based in Lakeland, Florida. Draken pilots are civilian contractors who role-play with the trainees by pretending to be enemy pilots. Poteet said the six-month weapons school is akin to “getting your Ph.D in flying.”

The Skyhawk model is a fighter jet used in the Vietnam era.

The jet in Thursday’s crash was a two-seater and had no ammunition on board. Nothing was hit on the ground and no one else was injured. There have been no reports of damage to any facilities.

The other aircraft involved in the training landed safely.

The 57th Wing manages all flying operations at the Nellis base, which is located about 15 miles northeast of downtown Las Vegas.

The wing supports the Air Force warfare test-and-evaluation activities, runs a graduate-level U.S. Air Force weapons school and serves as home to the Thunderbirds air demonstration team. Since 1975, the base has hosted periodic “red flag” and “green flag” training exercises involving military air units from U.S. allies in mock battles over the vast Nevada Test and Training Range.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor says the agency was notified that a military aircraft was involved in the crash.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said he had no immediate information about his agency’s involvement.