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Jet trainer crashes in farmland near Columbus Air Force Base; pilots eject safely

A T-38 Talon, like those shown here, crashed near Columbus Air Force Base in northeast Mississippi on Wednesday. Both pilots ejected safely, the Air Force says.
A T-38 Talon, like those shown here, crashed near Columbus Air Force Base in northeast Mississippi on Wednesday. Both pilots ejected safely, the Air Force says. U.S. Air Force

A military airplane crashed and burst into flames in farmland near Columbus Air Force Base after two pilots ejected, the Air Force and multiple media sources report.

The crash occurred within minutes of takeoff in Lowndes County near Monroe County about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, msnewsnow says. No injuries were reported.

The two pilots ejected safely from the plane, Air Force spokesman Sgt. Joshua Smoot told WCBI TV station.

The plane is a T-38C Talon II, a supersonic jet trainer, an Air Force press release said.

The pilots were taken to a hospital to be checked out, Lowndes Emergency management Director Cindy Lawrence told msnewsnow.

First responders went to the scene to put out the fiery wreckage and secure the area, the Air Force said. No homes or other buildings were endangered.

The two pilots were found near Barton Ferry Road in Lowndes County, msnewsnow says. The plane crashed off Mississippi 373 near Barton Ferry, WTVA reported.

A plume of smoke could be seen in downtown Columbus, WAPT TV reports. The base is about nine miles north of the city.

The pilots' conditions and names were not available later Wednesday.

The Air Force website describes the T-38 as a "twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record."

The T-38 has two seats, a glass cockpit and can take off with as little as 2,300 feet of runway, the website says.

Columbus trains pilots on numerous aircraft, with advanced students learning to fly fighter planes and bomber aircraft.

Columbus Air Force Base is the home of the 14th Flying Training Wing. The base is north of Columbus in northeast Mississippi, north of the Tombigbee Waterway.

Six months ago, a pilot was killed and another died in a T-38 crash in Del Rio, Texas, the Air Force Times says. Both men were instructor pilots at Laughlin Air Force Base when their T-38 crashed on Nov. 20. Capt. Paul J. Barbour, 32, died. That crash apparently remains under investigation.

It's been 2008 since a fatal crash occurred at Columbus. Maj. David B. Faulker and student pilot 2nd Lt. Matthew Emmons tried to eject from a T-38 when the jet's flaps caused the aircraft to roll. The two could not bail out to safety.

Records maintained by the U.S. Air Force Safety Center show there have been a total of four Class A mishaps since 2010, according to the Associated Press. Class A mishaps include incidents involving death, permanent disability or destruction of an aircraft with more than $2 million in damages, the AP says.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews
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