PHOENIX — A fighter jet operated by a military contractor crashed west of Phoenix Thursday but the pilot ejected and no one on the ground was hurt, a spokesman for the contractor and Air Force officials said.
The French-made Mirage F1 crashed near Buckeye, a growing community about 30 miles west of Phoenix. Officials in the area and the Federal Aviation Administration were referring all inquiries to Luke Air Force Base in nearby Glendale.
John Rupp, director of foreign military sales for Airborne Tactical Advantage Co., confirmed it was one of his company’s jets that went down.
“The pilot is safe and doing well,” Rupp told The Associated Press. The pilot was taken to a hospital for evaluation but does not have any serious injuries.
Air Force officials later confirmed the crash and said it occurred late Thursday morning about 15 miles west of the base in an unpopulated area. The plane had been operating out of Luke, the Air Force’s main base for training F-35 fighter pilots.
No one one the ground was hurt. The Air Force sent crews from the base fire department, explosives ordinance specialists and security police to secure the site, and the Buckeye Fire Department was also on scene.
Brig. Gen. Gregory Kreuder, commander of the base’s 56th Fighter Wing, said in a statement that the base is committed to safety.
“We are thankful for the continued outstanding support Luke receives from our community partners, especially during difficult situations like this,” Kreuder said. “Finally, I’m grateful nobody was hurt on the ground and the pilot was safely recovered with only minor injuries.”
ATAC is one of a growing number of contractors that fly aircraft to help train military aviators. The company provides aggressor aircraft to help military fighter pilots learn their trade as well as other services to the military.
Another Mirage F1 operated by a different contractor crashed in Las Vegas last year as the pilot came in to land at nearby Nellis Air Force Base. The pilot was killed.
The May 24 crash happened after the pilot had an inflight emergency and crashed into a neighborhood shortly. Pilot Nicholas Hunter Hamilton, 43, of Las Vegas, reported a “flap issue” and ejected shortly before the plane hit the ground.
Hamilton retired after 20 years as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and was employed by military contractor Draken International. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash and is expected to issue its final report by June 2023.
Air Force Times staff writer Rachel S. Cohen contributed to this report.