F-35B Crash On Take Off From Kirtland AFB Caught On Camera

F-35B crash
The F-35B about to crash following pilot's ejection (Image courtesy: Alex McCready)

We have obtained some interesting photographs showing the moments the F-35B Lightning II crashed near Albuquerque.

The F-35B that crashed on May 28, 2024, in New Mexico was piloted by an Air Force pilot, according to statements from the F-35 Joint Program Office and the Air Force. The pilot ejected at a low altitude and sustained serious injuries but is currently in stable condition.

The Air Force pilot was flying the jet on behalf of the Defense Contract Management Agency.

The F-35B had originally departed from Lockheed Martin’s Manufacturing Plant in Fort Worth, Texas, and was en route to Edwards Air Force Base in California, with a refueling stop planned at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. The crash occurred shortly after its departure from Kirtland AFB. The incident happened at 1:48 pm local time, just outside the fenced boundary of the Albuquerque International Sunport/Kirtland Air Force Base.

Some unverified online reports suggest that upon departure, the air traffic control offered the F-35B a rapid ascent to 20,000 feet, but the pilot declined, stating he had promised to perform a short takeoff for observers on the ramp.

Indeed, crash images show the aircraft taking off in Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) mode: images of the aircraft taken just before the crash and shared on social media show it in a nose-high position for a STOVL takeoff, kicking up considerable dust on the runway overrun. The aircraft was in full STOVL configuration, with the dorsal lift fan door open, engine exhaust ventral doors open, and elevons fully deflected.

Alex McCready took a couple of live shots with her iPhone of the F-35B. Since Live Photos feature records what happens 1.5 seconds before and after you take a picture, the images provide a pretty clear view (from distance) of the incident: you can see the aircraft at very low altitude moments before the pilot ejected.

The F-35B nose high, about to hit the ground. (Image courtesy: Alex McCready)

Then, after the ejection the aircraft continued to fly for some hundred meters before crashing into the ground.

F-35B crash
The F-35B about to crash following pilot’s ejection (Image courtesy: Alex McCready)

Here are the Live Photos that, together, provide an interesting look at the incident.

The aircraft that crashed on May 29 was a Technology Refresh 2-configured F-35, delivered in September 2023. It was one of the last TR-2s built due to delays in TR-3 testing. The jet, owned by the U.S. government and piloted by a government pilot, was being transferred from Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base, California, for modifications and testing, with a refueling stop at Kirtland AFB. The cause of the crash is under review by an Air Force Interim Safety Board.

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.