On Thursday, an F-16 military jet that had taken off from March Air Reserve Base in Moreno Valley was forced to abort a routine training mission when the pilot reported hydraulic failure in the aircraft. Unfortunately, the hydraulic failure escalated to critical levels while the pilot was returning to base, forcing him to eject from the craft while it was still in the air.
Falling from the sky, the F-16 crashed outside of the base, crashing into a building on Van Buren Boulevard near the 215 Freeway, around 3:45 PM. A commuter on the freeway captured some video of the plane listing to the side as it descended to the Earth, where the crash created a small fire that the Riverside County Fire Department was forced to respond to.
There were three people that suffered minor injuries near the site of the crash, though their injuries were minor enough to have them treated on site before being released. However, twelve other people, including the pilot who was forced to eject at low altitude, had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for their injuries. Following the crash, authorities had to section off the area in order to disarm the live ordnance that the aircraft was carrying.
While this situation had many factors that could have made it extremely fatal for many different people, fortunately everything went rather smoothly, all things considered. Taking into account the fact that a military aircraft armed with live explosives crashed into a civilian area, the fact that there were no fatalities at all is nothing short of a miracle.
Of course, the United States military is now down one plane, but thankfully F-16s are an older model of aircraft that are only scheduled to serve for a few more years as it is. That’s really only a small consolation since military aircraft are expensive regardless, but it’s moderately better than the prospect of a cutting edge F-22 meeting the same fate.
That said, this does beg the question of how this happened. Obviously the plane suffered from hydraulic failure critical enough to warrant an emergency ejection by its pilot, but why wasn’t this issue discovered or addressed before the plane was scheduled for a training sortie? We can only speculate whether or not this mechanical failure was the result of maintenance negligence, but if so a lot of people could have died because someone didn’t do their job well enough.
But, all’s well that ends well. A building will need to be repaired, the base might have to replace an aircraft, and some hospital bills will need to be paid, but everyone is still alive, and that matters far more. Still, it would be nice if some reassurance could be issued to the citizens of the city that promises they won’t have to worry about jets crashing into their buildings when they aren’t expecting anything life-threatening for the day.