F35B Fighter Jet crashes near Albuquerque International Sunport

  • Published
  • By Allen Winston
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

 An F-35B aircraft was involved in a crash southwest of the Kirtland, at 1:48 p.m., May 28, 2024.

The U.S. Air Force pilot ferrying the aircraft departed from the Lockheed Martin facility at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Texas, that morning, and landed at Kirtland at 1 p.m. to refuel. Shortly after takeoff for Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the aircraft crashed on University Blvd SE, just north of Rio Bravo Blvd SE, where it was consumed by fire.

The pilot, assigned to the Defense Contract Management Agency, successfully ejected at a low altitude from the aircraft before the crash. He was triaged on scene and transported to University of New Mexico Hospital where he underwent surgery for his injuries. He remains in serious, but stable condition.

Bernalillo County Fire Rescue were the first to arrive on scene and began search and rescue of the pilot as well as fire suppression measures to put out the fire from the immediate aircraft and the surrounding landscape. They were quickly joined by Battalion One Albuquerque Fire and Rescue and Kirtland AFB Fire Department. Emergency responders secured the scene and ensured the safety of the area.

A combined resilient team was immediately evident as military agencies, city agencies, and the local community rallied together. The coordination and rapid response showcased the strength and collaboration between county, city and installation sectors. Together, they established a command center, rescued the pilot, rapidly contained the fire and secured the scene.

The Kirtland Partnership Committee has been closely working with the pilot’s family to create a sense of community and comfort during this trying time, offering support and delivering a care package during their stay. “As a community, we are grateful to have such a capable and well-trained team in New Mexico to overcome these events,” said Megan DeLaRosa, Kirtland Partnership Committee Director.

One thing is clear-- training and teamwork pay off. Everyone knew their role and pulled together seamlessly for this mission. Col. Michael Power, 377th Air Base Wing and Kirtland Air Force Base installation commander remarked on the incredible interagency teamwork and immediate response to the crash.

“The last eight days has seen Team Kirtland come together to support the pilot and community as a result of the recent F-35 crash,” Power said. “The 377th Air Base Wing, 58th and 150th Special Operations Wings, as well as first responders of Bernalillo County, the city of Albuquerque, and so many more came together to provide immeasurable support during this incident.”

The Navy Region Southeast On-scene Coordinator program, whose mission is to provide emergency response and consequence management services for all Navy and U.S. Marine Corps incidents that may have an environmental or public health impact, arrived from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., on June 1. They immediately began working on the recovery and removal of the aircraft wreckage. The program is also responsible for ensuring that all restoration of the area aligns with environmental laws.

“The leaders and team at Kirtland Air Force Base did an excellent job stabilizing the site and preparing to receive our team,” explained John Baxter, Federal On-scene Coordinator. “Once we assumed command, we continued to work closely with installation leaders, stakeholders, and investigators to remove the debris and minimize further disruptions to the local community.”

A Navy team has been assigned to the cleanup of the site. The clean-up and relocation of the aircraft is expected to take days not weeks. Local officials are working with the City of Albuquerque and the Office of Emergency Management to mitigate disruption in traffic on the roads near the crash site.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation and being reviewed by an Air Force Interim Safety Board, NTSB, and led by the Navy.