WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Questions are still swirling around the Marine Corps fighter jet that crashed in South Carolina after its pilot safely ejected.
That pilot was on a training flight on Sunday when he was ejected from his F-35B.
Crews found the plane the next day, after it crashed 60 miles away from the ejection site.
But there’s a big question hanging out there, why was the pilot ejected from his F35B?
The Marine flyer suffered some minor injuries in Sunday’s ejection.
The ejection seat in a high-performance military aircraft is essentially a rocket chair. It can create tremendous G forces that can break bones.
Typically, pilots only bail out of their warplanes when there’s a catastrophic system failure or battle damage and they can’t land safely.
The F35’s loss can also be catastrophic for military commanders, government commanders and government accountants.
That’s the judgment of retired Marine Colonel and military analyst Mark Cancian.
“When one of these aircraft crashes, the U.S. must come up with an additional $100 million to replace it. The good news is military flying has become safer over time. Go back 20, 30, 40 years, the accident rate in military flying was enormous. Lost hundreds of pilots. Today, fewer accidents. But when these planes do crash, they are very expensive.”
They’re also hard to replace.
Cancian says Pentagon leaders don’t have a stock of F35B Stealth Fighter jets as ready replacements.
Each of the sophisticated jets has to be ordered, and production can take years.
The loss of an F-35 could force commanders to use older, less sophisticated warplanes for critical missions.
Regarding why the pilot was ejected from his warplane, was it intentional? In most fighter planes, ejection seats do not operate automatically. It takes the pilot pulling a lever to initiate what’s called the “punch out”.
But the F35B is a different bird.
This particular plane can take off and land vertically, and hover like a helicopter.
If something goes wrong, the pilot might not be able to act fast enough to start the ejection process.
The F35B has an auto function on its ejection seat to save the life of the pilot if there’s a problem in hover mode.
Defense Department investigators are looking into this crash.
They’re also looking into how that plane kept flying for 60 more miles after the pilot’s ejection. Reports say the aircraft was on autopilot.