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Air Force trainer jet crashes in Mississippi; 2 eject safely


COLUMBUS, Miss. — A U.S. Air Force training jet crashed Wednesday in northeast Mississippi with both pilots ejecting safely.

The T-38C Talon II crashed about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Columbus Air Force Base officials said in a statement.

The plane went down in a wooded area just outside the base's fenceline, north of the city of Columbus. Both pilots were taken to a hospital, evaluated, and released. Lt Col. Marc Deshaies, who commands the 14th Student Squadron at the base, told reporters Wednesday afternoon he had no specific information on any injuries to the two unnamed pilots.

The Air Force said there were no houses or other structures near the crash site and the fire was extinguished. A plume of smoke was visible from downtown Columbus.

Deshaies said it was "still way too early to tell" what caused the crash and would not say if the plane was landing, taking off, or doing something else at the time of the crash.

"We are extremely, extremely thankful they were able to eject safely from the aircraft," Deshaies said.

The base suspended flights for the rest of the day, Deshaies said. The Air Force will investigate the causes of the crash, releasing a report later.

Columbus Air Force Base trains pilots on a variety of aircraft, with more advanced trainees learning on the T-38C. It is used for pilots learning to fly fighter and bomber aircraft.

Variants of the T-38, a two-seat, twin-engine supersonic training jet, have been used by the U.S. military since 1961. The plane has experienced relatively few major incidents in recent years, according to records maintained by the U.S. Air Force Safety Center. Including Wednesday's crash, there have been only four of what the Air Force classifies as Class A mishaps since 2010. That includes any incident involving death, permanent total disability, destruction of the plane or more than $2 million worth of damage.

The last fatal crash at Columbus came in 2008, when a problem with the jet's flaps caused the T-38 to roll to the left as it took off. Killed were instructor Maj. David B. Faulkner and student pilot 2nd Lt. Matthew Emmons. They tried to eject, but the plane was nearly upside down and too low for them to bail out safely.

The only T-38 fatality during the past decade came in a November crash near Del Rio, Texas, in which a T-38 based at Laughlin Air Force Base went down. Capt. Paul J. Barbour, 32, died.

The Associated Press

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