Time.news – The pilot of US Marine F-35 jet disappeared last Sunday and found over 24 hours later, instead of alerting his base he called the civil emergency services (911, the equivalent of our 112) from a house in South Carolina where he landed with his parachute. In the audio of the phone call, obtained by the BBC which made it known, the pilot told the dispatcher that he was “not sure” where his $100 million plane was: a high-tech F-35 Lightning II.
It was an F-35B, a variant operated by the Marines with short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities. The shape of the structure, with two angular stabilizers on the back, and the use of special materials make detection by traditional radars more difficult.
In the background, a local resident can also be heard calmly explaining that the pilot had landed in his garden.
“We have a pilot in the house”
The remains of the jet were discovered on Monday, a day after its disappearance, after the Marines had appealed to the population for help in the search. During the four-minute call to 911, the resident of a North Charleston home can be heard telling a confused dispatcher that “we have a pilot in the house.” “I think he landed in my backyard,” the man added. “We’re trying to figure out if we can get an ambulance to the house, please.”
The 47-year-old pilot, who was not named, said he felt “fine” after ejecting at about 2,000 feet (600 meters). Only his back hurt. “Ma’am, a military jet has crashed. I’m the pilot. We need to get the rescue started,” he explained. “I’m not sure where the plane is. It should have landed somewhere. I ejected.” Afterwards, the pilot again asked the dispatcher to “send an ambulance” and repeated that he “went to the ground with a parachute”.
According to the Marine Corps, the pilot ejected due to a malfunction and landed in a residential area near theCharleston International Airport. In a separate 911 call obtained by the AP, an unidentified official said there was “a pilot with his parachute” who had lost sight of the plane “on the way down.”
Investigations into the causes of the accident are underway
While it’s unclear how and why the F-35 continued to fly after the pilot ejected, the Marine Corps said its flight-control software may have helped it stay in the air even without the pilot’s hands on commands. “This system was designed to save our pilots in the event of incapacitation or loss of situational awareness,” read the statement cited by the AP.
The searches may have been hampered by anti-radar stealth capability of the plane and by technology that erases the jet’s communications system in the event of a pilot ejection. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Inadequate training, lack of spare parts and complex repair processes have left the US Army’s F-35 fleet at about 55% effective, according to a report submitted to the US government on Thursday.
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