AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Two fighter jets from the military’s elite performance teams crashed within hours of each other Thursday. A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird jet crashed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, following the group’s traditional performance the Air Force Academy commencement. A Navy’s Blue Angels pilot was killed when his F/A-18 fighter jet crashed near Nashville, Tennessee, where the team was practicing for a scheduled performance this weekend.
The aerial demonstration teams have crashed dozens of times in their long histories. Here is a look at some of the recent cases:
- April 2007: Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Davis, 32, of the Blue Angels, died when his jet went down during the final minutes of a performance at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, South Carolina The Pittsfield, Massachusetts., native was in his first year flying in formation with the team.
- August 2005: No one was hurt when two Thunderbird jets made contact while flying in formation, and a missile rail was dislodged. No one was injured in that accident at Chicago Air and Water Show, but the carbon fiber object fell into Lake Michigan, roughly 2,500 feet from where spectators had gathered to watch the show.
- September 2003: Captain Chris Stricklin safely ejected with only minor injuries when his Thunderbird jet crashed at an air show at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho as about 85,000 spectators looked on.
- October 1999: Lt. Commander Kieron O’Connor, 35, and crew-mate Lt. Kevin Colling, 32, were killed while practicing for air shows with five other Blue Angels jets at Moody Air Force Base in southern Georgia. There was no evidence of a mechanical problem on the F/A-18 Hornet. Investigators said O’Connor had a rib injury that might have given him trouble tensing his abdominal muscles to avoid blacking out during maneuvers that exert extreme gravitational forces on pilots.
- April 1999: Two Thunderbird F-16 jets bumped shortly after takeoff during a performance at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. They were able to safely land without injury.
- July 1985: Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Gershon, 32, of Pensacola, Florida, died when two A-4 Skyhawk jets collided and plummeted to earth in a fiery crash witnessed by 22,000 spectators. Lt. Andy Caputi, 30, ejected from his plane and landed safely on the grounds of the Niagara Falls Air Force Base.
- January 1982: The “Diamond Crash” becomes the worst training crash in Thunderbird history. Maj. Norm Lowry, Capt. Willie Mays, Capt. Pete Peterson and Capt. Mark Melancon are killed while flying the famous diamond formation during training at Indian Springs, Nevada.
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