Fresno-based F-16s on "safety stand down" after crash

FRESNO, Calif.

The F-16 military jet went down in Owens Valley in Inyo County. The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft.

Pilots at the 144th Fighter Wing are on what's called a "safety stand down" day, meaning all flights are grounded as part of standard procedure following a crash.

They're also using the time to go over their safety procedures before returning to the air.

An entire fleet of F-16 jets sit idle, parked in their hangers at Fresno Yosemite International Airport after one of the aircrafts went down Thursday in Inyo County about a hundred miles east of Fresno.

"The pilot experienced an in-flight emergency and the airplane subsequently crashed," Vice-Wing Commander Col. Clay Garrison said.

Garrison said in an interview Thursday night that the pilot was flying between 12 and 15-thousand feet above ground and was able to eject safely.

He said he came from the 144th Fighter Wing based in Fresno and had more than 10 years of experience flying the $21 million jet before the crash happened during a training exercise.

"There's a reason why we train in these areas, military operating areas. The one in Owens Valley is a great place to do that because it's desolate, remote and we can train in a safe area in case something like this does occur," Garrison said.

And when one does, Garrison said, "There are no new ones, we stopped buying these so anytime we lose one it's gone."

Gone because the aging single-engine aircrafts built in 1986 will soon be replaced by the more technologically-advanced F-15.

Until then the Air National Guard will continue to use the F-16 Fighting Falcons to carry out its mission of protecting the skies over California.

The pilot was treated at a military facility and released with a few minor scrapes and bruises. Friday the Air National Guard sent a safety investigation board to the crash site to secure the aircraft and will now conduct an investigation over the next few weeks.

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