January 19, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A California Air National Guard F-16C crashed today near Owens Lake in remote eastern California, but the pilot safely ejected and was not hurt.
USAF F-16C block 25 #84-1279 from the 194th FS is banking over a coast line. [USAF photo by Capt. Kirk Hawkins]
An engine failure in the jet caused the pilot to bail out, Guard officials said.
The jet (#84-1279
) was one of five F-16C fighters headed to a routine training exercise Friday morning. Col. Ryan Orian, vice commander at the base, said the pilot still was en route to the mission area when he noticed a problem
Typically, two training exercises are flown each weekday out of the Fresno base.
Search and rescue personnel from China Lake Naval Air Station recovered the pilot. The F-16 belongs to the 194th "Griffins" FS
which is based at Fresno ANG
Base, CA and is the flying unit of the 144th FW.
The cause of the crash is being investigated.
The pilot, who has logged 2,000 hours in fighter aircraft, has flown out of Fresno since 2001.
The vast and desolate Owens Lake area about 200 miles north of Los Angeles is a largely dry lakebed favored for military training runs.
It lies east of the Fresno headquarters of the California Air National Guard; The Sierra Nevada, with peaks towering above 14,000 feet, lies between the base and the Owens Valley.
The 144th Fighter Wing is the Southwest's "main operating base," where aircraft, weapons, maintenance, intelligence and support functions are clustered for the explicit purpose of homeland security.
The last crash involving an aircraft at the base was in 1997.