California Air Nation Guard Pilot Being Evaluated, Aircraft Was from South Dakota ANG.
A U.S. Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed into a large warehouse building while attempting to land at March Reserve Air Force Base in Riverside County, California on Thursday afternoon, May 16, 2019 at approximately 3:45 PM local time. The pilot of the aircraft ejected and is being evaluated in a local hospital according to news outlets.
The building where the aircraft impacted was near Van Buren Boulevard just west of the runway at March Reserve Air Force Base. News video showed the canopy from the F-16, the pilot’s parachute and ejection seat lying on the runway. A witness named Cameron Lee told NBC reporters Alex Johnson and Andrew Blankstein that he saw the F-16, “tilting from side to side” as it approached the runway. Lee went on to tell reporters, “As soon as I saw it begin tilting, the pilot ejected,” Lee said. “He went off to the right [and] the plane went over to the left.”
According to reports published by the local ABC News affiliate from reporter Luis Martinez, “The pilot belongs to the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard and the aircraft belongs to the South Dakota Air National Guard in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.” Some of the F-16 aircraft at March Reserve Air Force Base are tasked with the Homeland Security mission of regional air defense. It is not known if this aircraft was operating in the Homeland Security role at the time of the accident or if there was live ordinance onboard the aircraft.
Dramatic video surfaced on Twitter immediately following the crash that showed the F-16, clearly identifiable from its vertical stabilizer, resting inside the warehouse where it crashed under a large hole in the roof. There did not appear to be any fire in the video. The man taking the video is heard to remark, “That’s a military airplane in our building.”
Additional news helicopter video showed police and first responder vehicles leaving the area as the voiceover from the commentator speculated about the possibility that unexploded ordinance may be present at the crash site.
Five people on the ground were treated for injuries according to reports, including two who were transported to a local hospital. The injuries were described by base deputy fire chief Timothy Holliday as non-life threatening. Another report from Capt. Fernando Herrera from the Riverside Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection mentioned twelve people being decontaminated for possible exposure to hazardous materials and treated for injuries from debris. It is not known if the five people from the deputy fire chief’s report were included, or in addition to the twelve people described by Capt. Fernando Herrera.
It must be remembered that the aircraft uses hydrazine, a colorless, highly toxic and highly inflammable liquid that feeds the electrical systems and the EPU (Emergency Power Unit) in case of engine failure.
#BREAKING image from inside a warehouse near March Air Reserve Base where a fighter jet crashed this afternoon Courtesy: Jeff Schoffstall pic.twitter.com/OJa0WBRMnM
— Rob McMillan (@abc7robmcmillan) May 16, 2019
The General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon involved in today’s accident was a single-seat version. The aircraft began production in 1976. More than 4,600 F-16s have been built in many versions, including several two-seat variants. Production of updated versions of the F-16 continues for import customers. The aircraft can be characterized as one of the most successful combat aircraft in history, with extensive use in conflicts around the world. The F-16 is in service with approximately 26 nations.
This accident is the first U.S. Air Force flying accident in 2019 following 11 accidents for Air Force and Air Force Reserve/National Guard aircraft in 2018. Two USAF F-16s crashed last year, including a fatal accident involving the U.S. Air Force flight demonstration team, The Thunderbirds that occurred on April 5, 2018. The other USAF F-16 accident in 2018 happened when an aircraft overran the runway on emergency landing and the pilot ejected safely at Lake Havasu City Airport in Arizona on April 24, 2018.