F-35 Crashes for the First Time, Pilot Ejects Safely

The Sept. 28 crash of a Marine-Corps-operated Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II fighter, like the one shown here, comes just one day after the Afghanistan airstrike that marked the first combat attack by one of the service's F-35Bs. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin McDonald.

A Marine Corps F-35B crashed Friday near Beaufort, S.C.. It was the first-ever crash of an F-35 of any model since the start of the development program 17 years ago.

According to a USMC statement, the aircraft, assigned to Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Beaufort, S.C., crashed at about 11:45 a.m. According to the service, the pilot ejected safely and was being evaluated by medical personnel. No one was injured on the ground, and the cause of the accident is under investigation.

The accident comes just one day after a Marine Corps F-35B made its first combat attack, on a target in Afghanistan.

The closest any F-35 has come to crashing previously was an incident at Eglin AFB, Fla. in June, 2014, when, during a takeoff run, the aircraft’s engine experienced a third stage rotor failure and the aircraft caught fire. The pilot aborted that takeoff and safely exited the aircraft, which was later written off. The resultant grounding of the type kept the F-35 from making its debut at the 2014 Farnborough Air Show. The root cause of that failure was a rotor blade digging into a seal surrounding the engine; all F-35s were later modified to correct the fault.