A Successful Accident at Joint Base in Fort Worth, TX

A successful accident. That’s what my father called an accident where no one got hurt. What happened this past week at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, TX, could have been a truly tragic accident, but the pilot of the F-35B fighter jet involved in this accident did what his training taught him to do and survived a heart-stopping, chill-to-the-bone, scary crash while on a test flight with this plane. This particular plane was still going through testing and had not yet been transferred to active duty with the Marine Corps.

The Lockheed Martin-made F-35B is the model designed for the Marine Corps and is capable of both vertical and traditional take-offs and landings. In this incident, the pilot was attempting to land the bird vertically when something as yet to be reported went terribly wrong.

Photo: Twitter/Doug Dunbar

The plane came down hard on the tarmac at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, TX. When it hit the tarmac, it bounced, then the nose of the plane went down, and it began to spin slowly with its engines still firing. At that moment, the pilot hit his ejection button, and he shot up and outwards from the cockpit at a slant. The parachute expanded to open as he was shot out of the plane at like a 45-degree angle.

If you have not seen the video of this event on the news, you can see it here in the attached video. Watching it, you can’t help but suck in a deep breath and hold it. The angle of his ejection trajectory just looks too low, too flat, and you’re holding your breath, waiting for that chute to fill with air. It finally does, only when he is maybe 100 feet above the ground. You don’t really see the pilot hit the ground, but you can’t help but be worried for him.

Photo: Twitter/Doug Dunbar

We can only imagine what went through that pilot’s mind in the few seconds it took for this incident to go from normal testing of the plane’s designed capabilities to sheer, unadulterated chaos breaking loose. When things started to go sideways, he had only an instant to make the decision to eject. At that point, it’s a matter of, “OH —-! Get the hell out of here!” followed by prayers for the chute to open and a soft landing. What could have been a very bad ending turned out to have a good ending.

It has since been reported that the pilot was taken to the hospital to be checked out and has since been released. Lockheed Martin has an F-35B assembly plant at the Joint Base. They are deeply involved in and cooperating with the investigations into what went wrong with the plane in this incident.

Photo: Twitter/Doug Dunbar

The company released a statement, according to the Marine Corps Times in an article about the incident written by Irene Loewenson saying, “We are thankful the pilot is safe. Safety remains our top priority.”

The F-35B is an amazingly powerful and uniquely designed fighter jet that has been designed for the Marine Corps to be used in coordination with the newly designed U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships, hence the ability to land vertically. It is an important asset in the new tactical environment being developed by the Navy/Marine Corps, which is a sea-based, quick-reaction capability that delivers Marine Expeditionary Units close to shore from these new Amphibious Assault ships that were developed for this purpose.

We are glad to hear that the pilot is fine and will fly again. Training, skill, and good luck came together to make this crash landing a “successful accident.” We are thankful for all involved.

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