On Sept. 29, 2020, a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B and a KC-130J Super Hercules tanker collided during Air-to-Air Refueling. The F-35B pilot successfully ejected from the Lightning II while the KC-130J pilot managed to perform a safe crash landing on a field near Thermal Airport, California.
Marine Capt. Michael Wolff who safely landed a KC-130J tanker in a California field after a mid-air collision with an F-35B received the highest military aviation award Wednesday in San Diego, the Marines said in a news release.
Wolff lost two engines due to a mid-air collision, its two right-side engines were heavily damaged in the collision making an emergency landing in a field near the Salton Sea.
The F-35B was assigned to the ‘Green Knights’ of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 while the KC-130J was assigned to the “Raiders” of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352.
The KC-130J and F-35B were taking part in Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 1-21.
Audio recordings also reveal the conversation between the KC-130J pilot and air traffic control as the pilot made the emergency landing after the collision. As the pictures in this post show, the mid-air collision caused extensive damage to the KC-130J’s engines on the right-wing and the remnants of a refueling pod.
According to USNI News, the audio, which emerged online, included Wolff informing air traffic control that the tanker lost two engines after colliding with another aircraft, which was the F-35B.
“LA Center, LA Center — Raider 50 — declare an emergency. Mid-air collision with VOLT-93. We have two engines out. We’re leaking fuel and might be on fire and an emergency descent at this time. Raider 50,” Wolff says in the recording.
A separate conversation between air traffic control and an American Airlines pilot who saw flames from the incident was included in another recording.
“We’re going to report that there was some sort of flares — some sort of pyrotechnic device — at our two o’clock position, less than ten nautical miles, maybe five miles away, at an altitude of probably 25,000 feet,” the pilot says.
The American Airlines pilot said he could also see a “plume” of smoke on the ground, presumably from where the F-35B crashed.
“I’m thankful for how everything turned out. I’m happy to be alive,” Wolff said in a statement. “I still love flying, and I was happy to get up in the air as soon as I could afterward. Everyone did their part and came together.”