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Pilot ejects as F-16 goes down near Hattiesburg

September 11, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A military training jet based in Montgomery, Alabama (USA), crashed short of Hattiesburg airport Wednesday but the pilot managed to eject safely.
Maj. Charles Toplikar ejected safely from the F-16 fighter jet and suffered only minor injuries, said Maj. Joyce Guthrie, spokeswoman for the Alabama Air National Guard 187th Fighter Wing in Montgomery.

The unit is based at Montgomery's Dannelly Field and operates 15 fighters, with the support of about 1,000 personnel.

Four jets from the unit flew in formation over the Alabama State Capitol Wednesday morning to commemorate the attacks of Sept. 11.

It was not clear whether Toplikar was part of the flyover, Guthrie said.

The crash occurred about 2:40 p.m. at Bobby L. Chain Municipal Airport. The pilot had a flameout at about 22,000 feet. When that happened he headed for Bobby Chain in south Hattiesburg.

He was approaching short of the runway and he punched out and the plane crashed about 600 feet shy of the runway. The crash was being investigated.