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Pilot in F-16 crash near Joint Base Andrews released from the hospital

April 5, 2017 (Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Updated at 6 p.m. on April 5, 2017.

The pilot of an F-16C that crashed near Washington on Wednesday morning after having a mechanical problem was released from the hospital later that same day, officials said.

Brig. Gen. George Degnon, the acting adjutant general of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, told reporters Wednesday afternoon at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, that the pilot experienced a mechanical issue shortly after takeoff. Despite taking action, Degnon said, the pilot quickly realized he wouldn't be able to safely land the aircraft, so he flew the plane to a wooded area away from the public before ejecting.

The plane crashed at about 9:15 a.m., about six miles southwest of Andrews and 12 miles south of Washington.

"The pilot only had time to rely on his extensive training while trying to mitigate any kind of collateral damage," Degnon said. 

The Air National Guard pilot, a member of the 121st Fighter Squadron at Andrews, was flying with three other F-16s as part of a routine training operation, heading to a range to practice strafing. The plane was loaded with 510 training rounds, which have less gunpowder than the F-16's standard ammunition.

He was medically evacuated to Malcolm Grow Medical Clinic at Andrews, was treated and released, and returned home to his family "in good spirits," Degnon said.

Degnon said accident investigators are now collecting maintenance records on the plane, as well as pilot records, fuel and oil samples, and other evidence to determine the cause of the crash.

Degnon expressed confidence in the maintainers at the 113th Wing, and called them "some of the most experienced mechanics in the Air Force."

Lt. Col. Michael Croker, commander of the 121st, said the pilot's quick thinking to steer the plane away from populated areas is "a testament to our training."

The pilot has been in the Guard for about four years and has been with the 121st for about a year, Croker said. 

Croker said that when the mechanical problem emerged several minutes after takeoff, the pilot first tried to turn around to get back to base before realizing that would not be possible.

The Air Force asked the public to report any debris found by calling (301) 981-2002. But the Air Force said the debris is not dangerous and does not present a safety hazard to the public.
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