FALLON — One pilot was killed but two others parachuted to safety after two U.S. Navy fighter jets collided Friday while flying a routine training mission over Northern Nevada’s high desert.
Two pilots safely ejected from a two-seater F-5 Tiger and were rescued about 50 miles east of the Fallon Naval Air Station, said Zip Upham, base public affairs officer.
They were reported in stable condition at Banner Churchill Medical Center in Fallon where they were being treated for minor injuries.
The other pilot of a one-seater F/A-18C Hornet initially was reported as missing after the two aircraft collided about noon near the town of Middlegate, about 110 miles east of Reno, Upham said.
Jeffery Wells, chief master communication specialist at the base, confirmed Friday night that the third pilot had died. He had been assigned to the “Valions” of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-15 based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.
Names were being withheld pending notification of relatives, Wells said.
The other two pilots were assigned to the “Saints” of Fighter Squadron Composite VFC-13 based at Naval Air Station Fallon.
The cause of the crash was under investigation, Wells said.
Both jets had taken off from the air station in Fallon.
Travis Anderton of Middlegate said he had seen the two jets before the crash.
“Then I heard a crash, looked up and saw them coming out of the sky, falling,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Then it was smoke and you couldn’t see any more.”
Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Chuck Allen said some of the wreckage crashed about a mile from U.S. Highway 50, but he had no other details.
The F-5 Tiger is a Vietnam-era fighter aircraft. The F/A-18C Hornet, which was used in Operation Desert Storm, is a fighter-attack aircraft that can carry air-to-air missiles and infrared imaging air-to-ground missiles.
Naval Air Station, Fallon, about 60 miles east of Reno, is home to the Navy’s elite Strike and Air Warfare Center.
The center was formed in 1996 with the consolidation of the Navy fighter Weapons School known as “Top Gun” and the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School, or “Top Dome.”