Military jet goes down near Albuquerque airport; pilot hospitalized

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A pilot was seriously injured when an F-35 fighter jet crashed Tuesday afternoon near New Mexico’s Albuquerque International Sunport, authorities said.  

The plane was a developmental model of the F-35 fighter jet, which was being delivered by Lockheed Martin, two Defense Department officials told CBS News. It had just taken off from Albuquerque and was en route to Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, the officials said.

A spokesperson for Kirtland Air Force Base, which is located just southeast of Sunport, said in a statement provided to CBS News Tuesday night that an Air Force pilot was “ferrying” the F-35 from the Lockheed Martin facility at Naval Air Reserve Station in Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards AFB. 

The pilot had landed at Kirtland at about 1 p.m. local time to refuel, and had just taken off bound for Edwards AFB when the crash occurred, the Kirtland spokesperson said.

Lt. Jason Fejer, a spokesperson for Albuquerque Fire Rescue, said in a social media video that multiple agencies responded to the crash a little before 2 p.m. local time. 

The plane went down near the airfield on the southside of the Sunport, the airport reported on social media. The pilot and sole occupant of the plane was conscious and taken to a nearby hospital, the airport said. According to Fejer, the pilot was able to exit the plane and was hospitalized with serious injuries. The pilot was last reported to be in stable condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital, the Kirtland spokesperson said.

Two civilians were also assessed at the scene, but did not require transport to a hospital, Fejer added. 

It was not immediately clear if the pilot was a service member or a civilian.

Aerial footage from KOB-TV showed local firefighters dousing the wreckage. Fire crews were able to extinguish the blaze, Fejer said. 

“Grateful for the rapid action of the first responders who arrived to the scene. Praying for the pilot,” Albuquerque’s Mayor Tim Keller said on social media.

— David Martin contributed reporting.  



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