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USAF F-16 crashes near lake, pilot ejects safely

January 5, 1989 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A U.S. Air Force F-16 crashed in a cow pasture north of Lake Okeechobee located in south-central Florida, yesterday. The pilot manged to safely eject and only suffered some bruises.

USAF F-16A block 15 #83-1116 from the 308th TFS is parked on a large ramp together with a sistership. The aircraft crashed on January 5th, 1989 after only serving for a mere 4 years. [Photo by Mike Kopack]

The impact of the crash cut a 5-foot-deep trench into the ground and ignited a grass fire that burned 50 acres. Firefighters fought the blaze for two hours after the 10.00h crash.

First Lt. Mark Pugh, 27, of Belpre, Ohio, was flying the single-seat F-16 (#83-1116) on a a surface attack/tactics training mission from Homestead Air Force Base at the southern end of Dade County.

He was #4 in the formation. While egressing the target area at ~515 knots, his canopy struck an approximately 8-pound Turkey buzzard directly in front of the HUD. The bird's remains penetrated the canopy (this was the first USAF penetration of an F-16 canopy) and hit Pugsly in the chest, knocking his left hand onto the ejection handle and his right arm off the sidestick back against the bulkhead. He could only see a small gap near his left hand on the ejection handle, and that seemed like a good idea, so he ejected.

The airplane continued and crashed off-range, killing a cow. Pugsly's injuries were confined to bruises and lacerations from the canopy plexiglass. He flew again in several weeks and continued as an F-16 LANTIRN and F-15E RTU IP.

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