The pilot managed to bail out before his jet exploded in a giant fireball
A US-made F-18 fighter jet crashed to earth and violently exploded during a military exhibition at an air base in Spain on Saturday. The pilot escaped before the crash and was rushed to a nearby hospital.
The incident took place during a practice flight ahead of a demonstration for military families at the Zaragoza Air Base, a Spanish Air Force facility formerly used by the US Air Force.
Video footage shows the jet climbing steeply, before leveling out and nosediving back to the ground. A massive fireball erupted from the crash site, and burning jet fuel sent a column of black smoke into the sky.
The pilot, a wing captain with more than 1,000 flight hours, suffered injuries to his legs, hips, and arms after ejecting from the plane, local newspaper Heraldo de Aragon reported. The Spanish Air Force confirmed in a statement that he was taken to the hospital and his life is “not in danger.”
The plane crashed inside the perimeter of the base, which is located next to a busy highway. According to the air force, some wreckage was scattered outside the compound. The plane completely disintegrated upon impact.
The cause of the crash is unclear, but Saturday’s near-tragedy was the latest in a long list of accidents involving the Spanish Air Force’s F-18s. An F-18 crashed while taking off at an air base near Madrid in 2017, killing its pilot. Three non-fatal crashes took place in 2009, and one in 2003, while six of the American-made jets crashed throughout the 1990s and 1980s, killing two pilots.
The Spanish Air Force currently operates 84 F-18s, which it reportedly intends to replace with the F-35, though Madrid has neither confirmed nor denied these reports.