A piece of wreckage from a T-45, based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and an orange section of parachute can be seen partially behind a bush, in a photo taken about 75 yards from the crash scene in Jefferson County, Fla. (Phil Sears / Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat)
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Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputies Ricky Dollar and Ray Lacy stand guard Dec. 29 near the crash scene. (Phil Sears / Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat)
Two officers attached to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., escaped major injury Wednesday after ejecting from their T-45 Goshawk training jet over a swampy area of Jefferson County, Fla.
The jet went down about noon 18 miles southeast of the Tallahassee Regional Airport, said Jim Durwin, the airport's assistant supervisor of operations.
"We were very fortunate," said Patrick Nichols with the Department of Public Affairs for NAS Pensacola. "The safety and survival of our air crew are paramount."
The flight was part of a routine training mission being completed by the Pensacola NAS' Squadron 86 Sabrehawks.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation by the Navy, with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration.
According to a http://www.navytimes.com/news/2008/11/navy_goshawks_111008/">2008 Navy Times article, between 2007 and 2008, there were five T-45 Goshawk trainer crashes in nine months, a spike compared to previous years. According to the website http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/">Ejection History, there were no more than three T-45 Goshawk trainer crashes in any one year from 1994 to 2006. In six years during that span, there were no crashes. The website lists another crash June 10, 2010, the only one since 2008. In all seven crashes since 2007, the pilots ejected and did not sustain major injuries. Crash causes included an engine malfunction and two instances where a bird was sucked into the jet's engine.
The $20 million T-45 has been used in the fleet since 1991 and, according to the Pensacola News Journal, it has been used by NAS Pensacola since 2008 as a replacement for the T-2 Buckeye aircraft.
Both have been used in aircraft carrier landing training.
According to Bob Area, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Air Training in Corpus Christi, Texas, students from NAS Pensacola frequently train in the Big Bend and more than one plane would have been out at the time of the crash.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office secured the scene, which is accessible by a logging road south of Tram Road and west of the St. Marks River.
Jefferson County Sheriff David Hobbs said the tail of the plane was sticking out of water and debris was scattered around the crash site.
The Leon County Sheriff's Office assisted by picking up the two men via helicopter. Both were transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital as a precautionary measure, but neither was seriously injured. Names have not been released.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, the pilots may not be Navy officers because Training Squadron 86 military pilots are from multiple armed service branches.
Tallahassee Democrat writers Amanda Curcio and Elizabeth Mack and Pensacola News Journal staff writer Travis Griggs contributed to this report.