An Oklahoma Air National Guard F-16 plane doing tactical maneuvers in Kansas landed at Tulsa International Airport on Monday afternoon after colliding with another jet, National Guard spokesman Col. Max Moss said.
One of the pilots was forced to eject and was not seriously injured, Moss said. The other pilot was not injured, and his jet did not sustain serious damage.
“Two Oklahoma Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons were involved in a mid-air collision during a training exercise this afternoon southwest of Howard, Kansas, causing one of the pilots to eject from his aircraft,” Moss said.
The plane crashed in a pasture three miles north of Moline, Kansas, the Wichita Eagle reported.
Although some debris fell in Moline, a town of about 486 people, there were no reports of damage in the town, Moline City Clerk Lisa Townsley told the Eagle.
Moline is about 60 miles northwest of Bartlesville and about 30 miles north of the Oklahoma state line.
“The second aircraft was able to return to Tulsa and landed safely. Neither pilot was seriously injured in the incident,” Moss said.
Elaine Julian, a Moline resident, said she was at a town park with her 4-year-old twin great-grandsons when she heard the jets fly overhead around 2:20 p.m.
“I said, ‘Come on and let’s see if we can find the jets,’ ” Julian said. “So we were looking up at the sky and we saw some puffs of smoke, and we could see that there was an airplane in one of those puffs and it was kind of zig-zagging and looked like it was having some trouble.”
The plane descended toward the ground soon after, emitting a large ball of fire, Julian said.
“Probably a couple more seconds after that, the noise stopped,” she said. “It went behind a tree so we couldn’t see it as it hit (the ground), but we heard a loud boom.”
Julian and her grandchildren arrived back at her home in Moline just before 3 p.m. Monday, which she said was just in time to see a piece of aircraft debris fall in her yard.
“It just looked like a big leaf and it floated down to the ground, and it smelled of fuel,” she said. “It was kind of a real thin fiberglass and it was about 8 to 10 inches long and 4 inches wide.”
Julian called the Moline City Clerk to report the debris, and she said Air Force personnel picked up the item later Monday. Elk County, Kansas, deputies and volunteer firefighters also visited her home to talk to her and her family about what they saw during the crash, Julian said.
“They explained (to the boys) that you could eject safely and come out in a parachute,” she said. “We have lots of planes flying over here, and you can see the vapor trails, but to actually witness something like that ... I thought, ‘Oh, he’s not going to get out of that.’ But thank goodness (the pilot) wasn’t in there.”
Michael Atchison, chief of Tulsa Fire House 51, stationed inside gates at the airport, said his crew responded to the second jet at 2:30 p.m. as it prepared to land there. The tip of one of the jet’s wings had broken off, Atchison said, and it had a 4-inch diameter hole in the fuselage.
Alexis Higgins, spokeswoman for Tulsa Airports, said the plane was towed back to the Air National Guard base after landing safely. The airport received a call from a pilot who was en route back to the airport, and he reported that plane could possibly be damaged, she said.
“Any time a pilot has a concern about an airplane, we respond by making sure our emergency response personnel are on standby so they can be on the ground.”