Marine Corps jet crashes in California desert; pilot safe

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TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (AP) — A Marine Corps jet fighter crashed and burned Tuesday in the Southern California desert, but the pilot ejected safely, a spokesman said.

The twin-engine F/A-18C Hornet crashed around 6 p.m. near the end of a training flight at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.

“Initial reports say that he had touched down and after he touched down, he needed to eject,” said First Lt. John P. Roberts, a Marine spokesman.

The pilot appeared to have no major injuries, but he was taken to a local hospital as a precaution, Roberts said. “He’s OK and doing well right now,” he said.

The aircraft burned, Roberts said.

There was no immediate word on what caused the crash.

The Hornet was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 31 from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, Roberts said.

The sprawling air base, 140 miles east of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert, trains pilots from around the country.

In July, another F/A-18C warplane went down during a training mission at the base, killing the pilot.

In August, an F/A-18D made an emergency landing after a warning light alerted the pilot to a possible fire. The problem was traced to a seal failure that tripped on-board sensors.

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