U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet Crashes in Death Valley

U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet Crashes in Death Valley
An F/A-18 Hornet assigned to the “Vampires” of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9) descends onto the runway at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake (NAWSCL). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains)

A U.S. Navy Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, operated by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-9 “Vampires”, crashed in Death Valley National Park, California, about 40 miles from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake on 4 October 2021.

The pilot ejected and sustained minor injuries.

The single crewmember reported being on board the two-seat aircraft ejected safely. The pilot was transported to, and then released from Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The identity of the pilot has not been released.

No cause for the crash has been reported. An official investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.

Media releases from the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service reported that the aircraft went down in the “southern part” of Death Valley National Park, but did not specify the crash location. The region is used frequently by aircraft for low-level flight training and testing and has become popular with aviation photographers since the closing of previous low-level flying areas in Death Valley National Park including the area known as “Star Wars Canyon” or the Jedi Transition following a fatal F/A-18E crash there in July of 2019.

According to an official statement from the National Park Service, “Search and rescue units from NAWS China Lake, Fort Irwin Army Base, and Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron (MAWTS) 1 from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma responded to the scene and rescued the pilot.”

The Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet is a two-seat, twin-engine tactical multi-role aircraft that operates from land and from aircraft carriers. The aircraft first flew in 1995 and has been continuously upgraded since as the primary multi-role, carrier-borne strike aircraft of the U.S. Navy. The F/A-18F two-seat variant of the Super Hornet has a very successful combat and safety record.

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