COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (RNN) - A jet from the elite Thunderbirds flying team crashed shortly after performing for the Air Force Academy graduation attended by President Barack Obama Thursday.
Air Force officials said the pilot of the No. 6 jet, Maj. Alex Turner, ejected from the craft and was able to walk away. Turner joined the team in October 2015 and is from Chelmsford, MA.
"All the pilots on the United States Air Force Thunderbirds are extremely experienced before they are even able to apply," said Lt. Col. Christopher Hammond of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squad. "He has upwards of 1,500 hours in the F-16 which is the aircraft that we fly on this team. And his experience on the team is this is his first show season. He's already conducted or been a part of 22 shows this year. "
No one was injured on the ground. Air Combat Command reported the pilot navigated his plane to an unpopulated area before ejecting safely.
The president, who was still at the graduation ceremony when the plane went down, met with the pilot after he got out safely.
#ThunderbirdCrash I commend the pilot’s ability to skillfully bring this in-air emergency to a safe conclusion. 2/2— Rep. Doug Lamborn (@RepDLamborn) June 2, 2016
The jet, an F-16 fighter, ended up in the Security Widefield area, about 15 miles south of the academy.
The USAF Thunderbirds are a precision air demonstration squadron that appears at airshows and other venues to perform aerobatic maneuvers.
In an incredible coincidence, not long after the incident in Colorado, one of the Navy's elite Blue Angels crashed on takeoff during a practice session in Smyrna, TN, near Nashville. One person, the plane's pilot, died in that crash.
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