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F-16 goes down in Arizona desert

Student pilot ejects safely

February 3, 1999
Web posted at: 10:26 p.m. EST (0326 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon crashed Wednesday on the Barry Goldwater Range at Gila Bend training field in Arizona, an Air Force official told CNN.

Student pilot 1st Lt. Esther Obert ejected safely from her single-seat F-16 as it plummeted to the desert, said Tech. Sgt. George Jozens, a Luke Air Force Base spokesman.

The F-16 was flying from Luke Air Force Base and was on a "routine training mission" when the plane crashed at 11:42 a.m. EST.

Luke Air Force Base's commander, Brig. Gen. John Barry, said there would be no flights Thursday while the base's remaining 212 aircraft are thoroughly inspected and maintenance records checked.

Barry told a news conference the pilot was flying in a three-plane formation and had radioed her instructor, flying in another F-16, that she was having problems.

The base flies between 160 and 200 sorties a day.

Six U.S. Air Force planes have crashed since January 1, with a total of four fatalities, all from one crash.

Fifteen Air Force planes have crashed since the government fiscal year began October 1, 1998, with seven fatalities.

No one on the ground was hurt in Wednesday's incident, and no other aircraft were involved, Jozens said. He also said there was no live ammunition or bombs aboard the $20 million fighter jet.

Base officials were on the scene trying to determine what caused the crash. The 2.7 million-acre practice range is about 60 miles southwest of Phoenix.

CNN National Security Producer Chris Plante and Reuters contributed to this report.

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