An Air National Guard F-16C Fighting Falcon fighter jet crashed Wednesday morning near Washington, D.C., an official said.
The plane went down at 9:17 a.m. local time in an unpopulated area several miles southwest of Joint Base Andrews and near National Harbor, Maryland, where U.S. military and industry officials are meeting for the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference, according to the official who spoke to Military.com on the condition of anonymity.
The unidentified pilot from D.C. Air National Guard’s 113th Wing safely ejected from the fourth-generation fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. “and sustained non-life threatening injuries,” according to an email from Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys, a spokesman for Joint Base Andrews.
He ditched the aircraft in a wooded area to avoid crashing into a residential neighborhood, Fox News reported. The aircraft went down about 200 yards behind a subdivision of homes in the town of Clinton, startling residents who witnessed a fireball and cloud of smoke, according to the network.
In video shared on social media, the pilot can be seen parachuting to the ground. He was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital, Lt. Col. Michael Corker, the pilot’s commanding officer, said at a press conference, according to Fox.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the accident, which apparently destroyed the roughly $20 million aircraft. At the time of the incident, the pilot was flying the plane alongside other aircraft in a routine training mission in the greater Washington area, according to the release.
The F-16 is a single-engine multirole fighter. As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had a total of 949 Fighting Falcons in the inventory, according to service inventory figures obtained by Military.com. That figure includes 334 of the aircraft in the Guard, with 289 single-seat F-16Cs and 45 two-seat F-16Ds.
Multiple Fighting Falcons have crashed in the past year.
Last March, an F-16CM crashed in Afghanistan after experiencing a turbine malfunction in its engine. Months later, an Air Force Thunderbirds jet was returning to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, after the Air Force Academy graduation flyover — attended by President Barack Obama — when it crashed in a nearby field. Air Combat Command later disclosed an accidental throttle rotation led to a malfunction and subsequent engine stall in the F-16 contributed to its crash.
Service officials recently said they’re considering retiring the F-15C/D Eagle as early as the mid-2020s. While the decision would mean divesting an entire aircraft class, officials said F-15 missions would be carried out by F-16s — a potential cost-saving measure that would allow pilots to train on fewer platforms.