A Taiwanese F-16 fighter jet being flown by a U.S. Air Force pilot was forced to make an emergency landing at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Hawaii around 3 p.m. Monday, a U.S. defense spokesperson told Air Force Times.
The pilot was sent to the hospital for further evaluation and has since been released.
The aircraft appeared to have problems with its landing gear and the pilot declared an in-flight emergency and landed, defense officials said. A netting barrier was used to slow and stop the plane, and the nose gear collapsed after contact with the net.
There was no damage to the runway and the incident is under investigation, the defense spokesperson said.
Some media outlets had earlier reported incorrectly that the aircraft belonged to the U.S. Air Force’s 15th Fighter Wing after an official from the the Hawaii National Guard said the jet was assigned to the Honolulu-based unit.
But according to a U.S. government official, the F-16 belonged to the Taiwanese Air Force and was being ferried from the United States to Taiwan by the U.S. pilot. The routine mission “falls under an ongoing security assistance program to provide defensive arms to Taiwan, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act,” the official said.
The U.S. routinely sells F-16s to Taiwan. Officials said the pilot took off from an Air Force base in the continental U.S. and was scheduled to stop in Hawaii en route to Taiwan.
The U.S. has programs to retrofit and upgrade older models of the F-16 for Taiwan, as well as plans to deliver new models of the aircraft. It wasn’t clear if the fighter jet was new or an older version.
The mishap closely follows two other incidents in which F-16Cs had rough landings at civilian airports. On May 31, and also on May 11, Fighting Falcons with the South Dakota Air National Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing skidded off runways at Sioux Falls’ airport.
On March 23, an F-16 with the Oklahoma Air National Guard jet went down in a wooded area of western Louisiana. The pilot in that mishap safely ejected.
None of pilots involved in the three mishaps suffered life-threatening injuries.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.