An unnamed U.S. Marine Corps pilot safely ejected from a single-seat McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet on Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 3:15 p.m. PDT during a training flight over Naval Air Station Fallon located near Reno, Nev.
The aviator was from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, nicknamed the “Death Rattlers”, based at MCAS Miramar in San Diego, Calif. He was taken to Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, but later released, according to reports published on Monday, September 3, 2012 by U-T San Diego, KESQ-TV, the Associated Press, KSWB-TV Fox5 San Diego, and other news sources.
The F/A-18C Hornet crashed into a remote area of the base and was completely destroyed.
It is a twin-engine supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multiple role fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets. The plane was first put into service on January 7, 1983, and is used primarily by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the Royal Australian Air Force.
About 1,480 of the jet fighters in various models have been produced, ranging in unit cost from $29 million to $57 million. They are also flown by military operators in Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, and Switzerland.
The high performance fighters have a maximum speed of 1,190 miles an hour, a range of 1,250 miles, a combat radius of 460 miles, a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, and a rate of climb of 50,000 feet per minute.
The aircraft carries a variety of weapons including an M61 Vulcan 6-barreled rapid fire cannon, Hydra 70 and Zuni rockets, and various bombs, missiles, and electronic counter-measures (ECM).
The plane has appeared in various films, including the 1996 disaster film “Independence Day”, the 2001 action adventure “Behind Enemy Lines”, and the 1998 remake of “Godzilla”.
Since 1996, NAS Fallon has been home to the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). The surrounding area contains 84,000 acres of bombing and electronic warfare ranges. The longest runway at the base is 14,003 feet and is a Porous European Mix (PEM) of asphalt concrete.
Similar models of the aircraft, the F/A-18D, were involved in crashes that injured civilians.
On December 8, 2008, an F/A-18D crashed in a populated area of San Diego, while on approach to MCAS Miramar, killing four people on the ground. The pilot ejected safely. More recently, on April 6, 2012, an F/A-18D crashed into apartment buildings in Virginia Beach, Va. Both crew members ejected. Seven people were injured, including the two pilots, who were taken to the hospital, but all survived.
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