Pilot Who Landed KC-130J In A Farmer’s Field After Midair Collision With F-35 Receives Distinguished Flying Cross

Some images that circulated online after the successful crash landing of the USMC KC-130J.

The KC-130J pilot was awarded a DFC decoration, “the highest award in flying and the fourth highest award for bravery; awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.”

On Sept. 29, 2020, at approximately 16.00LT a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B and a KC-130J Super Hercules tanker collided during AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) operations. The F-35B pilot successfully ejected from the Lightning II (and the video of the jet crashing into the desert near Coachella Valley, California, made the rounds), while the KC-130J pilot managed to perform a safe crash landing on a field near Thermal Airport, California.

The latter, belonging to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352 “Raiders” and flying as RAIDER 50, was involved in a refueling mission with the F-35B, callsign VOLT 93, with theMarine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 “Green Knights”, were taking part in Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 1-21, a seven-week training event that aims at improving operational integration of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

The KC-130J pilot managed to carry out a successful crash landing despite extensive damage to the engines on the right-wing and the refueling pod, saving the life of all the crew members who assisted him during the emergency. For his life saving action, that pilot, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Capt. Michael Wolff, received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Maj. Gen. Bradford J. Gering, 3rd MAW commanding general, the U.S. Marine Corps said in a public statement.

The pretty intense audio of the incident was posted by a user at the LiveATC forum.

“LA Center LA Center, RAIDER 50 declaring an emergency, midair collision with VOLT 93. We have two engines out, we’re leaking fuel, and likely on fire, and in emergency descent at this time. RAIDER 50.”

“We declare an emergency. We still have partial control of the aircraft. Two engines out. We are aiming towards uh…”

The Distinguished Flying Cross is the highest award in flying and the fourth highest award for bravery; awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.

“I’m thankful how everything turned out. I’m happy to be alive” said Wolff, “I still love flying, and I was happy to get up in the air as soon as I could afterwards” Wolff also stated that “everyone did their part and came together”.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.