Second loss at Eglin AFB this week, as F-35A crashes

A USAF-operated Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multi-role stealth fighter – belonging to the 58th Fighter Squadron (FS) ‘Gorillas’ – has crashed upon landing at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida.

The aircraft crash landed at the base at roughly 2130hrs (local time/CDT) on May 19. The pilot – who has not been named – successfully ejected and was transported to the 96th Medical Group for evaluation and monitoring but remains in a stable condition.

According to a news release, “at the time of the accident, the pilot was participating in a routine night-training sortie. First responders from the 96th Test Wing are on the scene and the site is secured. The accident is under investigation. There was no loss of life or damage to civilian property.”

58th FS F-35A [USAF/A1C Dennis Hoffman] #1
Avionic technicians and crew chiefs perform post-operation serving tasks on an F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th FS 'Gorillas' at Eglin AFB. USAF/A1C Dennis Hoffman

The incident is the second loss of a fifth-generation stealth fighter operating from Eglin AFB in four days. It follows the crash of a Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor from the 43rd FS ‘Hornets’ on a test and training range near the base on May 15. The Raptor pilot successfully ejected and was taken to the 96th Medical Group for evaluation and monitoring.

This latest incident is the first loss of a US-operated F-35 in the last three years. In 2018, a USMC-operated F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the fighter crashed in South Carolina. The pilot ejected successfully. Investigators found the cause of this incident was an engine fuel tube, which ruptured due to a manufacturing defect and resulted in a loss of power to the engine.

Last year, a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A conventional take-off and landing version of the fighter crashed into the Pacific Ocean, resulting in the death of its pilot. The air arm has since concluded that spatial disorientation/vertigo was the cause of this incident.