Business & Economy

Vermont Air Guard continues F-35 flights after Florida crash

One of the first two F-35 fighter jets to arrive at the Vermont Air National Guard base does a flyover at Burlington International Airport last September. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The Vermont National Guard is continuing F-35 flights after one of the stealth aircraft crashed in Florida earlier this month. 

The F-35 fighter jet crashed at the Eglin Air Force Base May 19 during a routine training flight, according to an Air Force statement

The pilot ejected from the jet before the crash, according to the statement, and was taken to the hospital in stable condition. He was released from the hospital the next day, according to Air Force Times

The crash, which occurred around 9:30 p.m., is under investigation, according to the Air Force. There were no fatalities nor damage to civilian property, the statement said. 

Lt. Chelsea Clark, a public affairs officer for the Vermont National Guard, said the Guard had not received any orders to pause or stop the flights. 

“There was nothing that has come down from higher headquarters in terms of a higher concern, we are still flying our operations here locally,” she said. 

Clark said the pilot’s ability to eject without harm reflected the safety of the jets. 

“Luckily, the pilot was able to walk away,” she said. “It’s good to know the systems work when they need to.” 

The F-35 basing in Burlington has been controversial, with opposition from community members who have raised concerns about the increased noise of the new jet compared with its predecessor model, the F-16.   

In April, the Burlington City Council asked Gov. Phil Scott to stop F-35 training flights during the pandemic. Rebecca Kelley, the governor's spokesperson, said the flights were important to the country’s national security, and Scott would not request that the Guard cease operations.  

Dan Grazier, a military fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, said that while any crash is cause for concern, it is still early in the investigation and the cause of the crash still has not been released. 

Eglin Air Force Base is a training center for pilots, Grazier said. 

“These are brand new pilots, so the chances of this being an inexperienced pilot is probably pretty great,” he said. “That’s just something to keep in mind until we actually see any results from the investigation.”  

With only three crashes in more than 10 years of flying the F-35, Grazier said that the F-35 has a solid safety record. 

“As far as safety of flight goes, the F-35 is still a very safe platform,” he said. 

An F-35 on the runway at the National Guard base. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

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Aidan Quigley

About Aidan

Aidan Quigley is VTDigger's Burlington and Chittenden County reporter. He most recently was a business intern at the Dallas Morning News and has also interned for Newsweek, Politico, the Christian Science Monitor and the Republican-American newspaper in Waterbury, Connecticut. He is a 2018 graduate of Ithaca College, where he served as the editor-in-chief of The Ithacan, the student newspaper. He is a native of Trumbull, Connecticut.

Email: [email protected]

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