An Air Force official told Air Force Times that the U.S. pilot diverted to Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport because of “engine concerns.”
Luke officials said in a release Tuesday that the F-16 “departed the prepared surface” ― or, in other words, overshot the runway — and the unidentified pilot safely ejected at about 10:35 a.m.
He was taken to Havasu Regional Medical Center and released that afternoon, Luke officials said.
The Air Force official said the jet is believed to have been coming in too fast when landing, and the pilot ejected on the ground. This is a common practice pilots are trained to do when landing with too much speed.
Photographs of the jet at the crash site show it had “Top Hats” painted on its tail, indicating it was from the 56th Fighter Wing’s 310th Fighter Squadron at Luke.
Luke halted flying operations for a few hours after the crash, but resumed flying that afternoon.
The Air Force has formed an interim safety investigation board to find the cause of the crash, and Luke personnel traveled to the crash site to recover the F-16.
Photographs of the crash site show the plane’s nose and much of its cockpit broke off from the rest of its fuselage in the crash.
The 56th Fighter Wing is part of Air Education and Training Command, and graduates more than 400 pilots each year. It also trains pilots to fly the F-35A Lightning II.
Amid the latest spike in aviation deaths, a newly published Military Times Crash Database shows manned warplane accidents have jumped 39 percent since the 2013 budget cuts.
The F-16 crash comes at a time of increased concerns about the rate of aircraft crashes and mishaps in the Air Force.
Two F-22s from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson experienced mishaps in separate incidents earlier this month, for example. And Thunderbirds pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bagno died in an April 4 F-16 crash at the Nevada Test and Training Range.
A Military Times study found a spike in non-fatal Class C mishaps has driven the Air Force’s overall aviation mishap rate to a seven-year high.