The Press-Enterprise reports plane crash occurring on Tuesday, September 29th, at approximately 4:00 p.m. near Palm Springs over the town of Thermal. Eyewitnesses to the plane crash said they heard a crashing sound and then saw a massive fireball.
Officials say that the plane that crashed was an F-35 Lightning II. During a mid-air refueling exercise, the jet fighter “made contact with” the wing of a KC-130J Hercules transport plane.
The DOD said that the pilot was able to eject from the aircraft before it crashed. He was taken to an area hospital for treatment. The $100 million jet fighter was a complete loss.
According to 1st Lt. Brett Vannier, spokesman for Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, the pilot and crew of the K-130 were headed toward the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport. Unable to make their destination, the transport plane landed in a carrot field near Thermal. The nine service members on board the K-130 suffered minor injuries.
The two planes were a part of nearly 80 aircraft involved in a 41-day military training exercise. The terrain covered extends some 1,200 miles and involved both instructors and students working on landings, refueling, and night flights. Most of the exercises are being conducted over Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Twenty-Nine Palms and MCAS Yuma.
This latest crash is the third in the past 12 months involving Marine Corps aircraft.