$16 Million Jet Destroyed After Colliding With Pigs On Runway
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A pair of wild pigs that wandered off course got hit by an F-16 fighter, forcing the pilot to eject as the jet veered off a runway and crashed at Jacksonville International Airport.
The pigs were killed. The pilot was bruised. The $16 million jet was destroyed.
Lt. Col. Sam Carter was rolling down the runway at 160 mph after landing when saw ″a brown blur″ and felt a bump before his Air National Guard jet veered toward a ditch and a stand of pines late Tuesday night.
Carter, who has flown jets for more than 24 years, including sorties over Vietnam, ejected before the aircraft plowed into the woods. The remains of a pair of wild pigs were found scattered on the runway.
″It’s a very inglorious way for a $16 million aircraft to come to an end,″ said Carter, bruised but otherwise uninjured. It was the first time he had ever bailed out of an aircraft.
Carter, whose career includes 9 1/2 years in the Air Force and 15 years with the Air National Guard, said Wednesday that he has heard his fill of oinker jokes, including his wife’s offer to let him pig out at a pork dinner.
Air Force investigators were at the scene Thursday.
Airport officials said they planned to check for breaks in the airport fence which is designed to keep animals off runways. Wild pigs are common in Florida.
Carter, 46, of Orange Park, had completed a training mission over the Atlantic Ocean and returned to the airport.
Col. Don Garrett, commanding officer of the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Interceptor Group, said the pigs must have been struck by the plane’s left landing gear, causing the aircraft to veer sharply and leave the runway.
The gear broke off, probably after the plane ripped through a ditch before crashing into the pine trees, he said.
″He (Carter) made a quick and timely decision to eject. You never know when you’re leaving a prepared surface, if the plane could turn upside down. When it started heading for the trees, he decided to eject,″ Garrett said.
The rocket-powered ejection seat carried Carter 200 feet into the air, barely high enough for his chute to open. Carter said the parachute blossomed just before his feet hit the ground.
He landed about 100 yards from where the aircraft came to rest in the splintered pines.
″You don’t expect that sort of thing,″ he said.