‘Not sure where the airplane is:’ Pilot of crashed F-35 jet in South Carolina called 911
Stars and Stripes September 22, 2023
WASHINGTON — A Marine Corps pilot who ejected from a F-35 fighter jet last weekend in South Carolina repeatedly requested an ambulance during a call with a 911 dispatcher from the home where he parachuted to safety.
The four-minute call surfaced Thursday, several days after the F-35B Lightning II that the pilot was flying crashed Sunday afternoon when the pilot encountered a problem while in flight and ejected. Military crews and local law enforcement officers spent parts of Sunday and Monday looking for the fighter jet. Joint Base Charleston announced Monday that it had located the debris field two hours northeast of the base.
“We got a pilot in the house, and I guess he landed in my backyard, and we’re trying to see if we could get an ambulance to the house, please,” the North Charleston resident told the dispatcher.
The pilot, who said he was 47, reported feeling “OK” after falling what he estimated was about 2,000 feet. Only his back hurt, he said. The resident said the pilot looked fine.
“Ma’am, a military jet crashed. I’m the pilot. We need to get rescue rolling,” the pilot told 911. “I’m not sure where the airplane is. It would have crash landed somewhere. I ejected.”
Military officials said the aircraft was from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. The pilot, who is assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, was in the middle of a training flight over North Charleston when the unspecified problem occurred. The pilot was taken to a hospital and was listed in stable condition.
The Marine Corps has said the plane was flying at an altitude of about 1,000 feet and flight control software on board could explain how it continued to fly without a pilot.
The 911 call was released the same day as a report from the Government Accountability Office revealed F-35 fighter jets are available to fly only 55% of the time and 73% of replacement parts must be sent back to suppliers because the Pentagon’s maintenance depots are inadequate.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.