A pilot managed to eject from his jet moments before it crashed in a ball of flames Friday during practice for the Alberta International Airshow in Canada, the Vancouver Sun reported.
Capt. Brian Bews was piloting the Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter when the crash occurred just after noon at the Lethbridge Regional Airport.
Witnesses told the Calgary Herald that Bews managed to pull his parachute and eject from the plane only moments before it erupted into flames on impact with the ground.
He had been practicing for the air show, rehearsing low-level maneuvers.
He was about 100 feet (30 meters) from the ground when he ejected and came to rest near the exploding jet.
The experienced pilot was taken to Chinook Regional Hospital with minor injuries.
Witness Ryan Giffin told the Calgary Herald he could tell the plane was in distress as he watched it from his office desk near the airport.
He said: "Oh my god, it's crashing. Everybody looked and it was already hitting the ground. There was a massive fireball."
"You could tell something was going wrong. It was going way too slow. There was a sputtering sound and two puffs of smoke from the engines.
"It started to nose dive, banked to the right, and the pilot ejected."
The CF-18 Hornet was to take part in the two-day air show in Lethbridge, beginning Saturday.
Awesome crash photos!!! I'm glad nobody was hurt.
Before anyone tries to knock the F-18 Hornet, keep in mind that it is one of the most reliable military aircraft in the world, with a top-notch safety record. It is worth noting that the pilot was trying a very difficult maneuver, the High Alpha Pass, 100 feet off the ground traveling at a very low rate of speed. In those extreme conditions, one stall is all it takes.
Makes you wonder why the Navy has gone with the F-35 Lightning, with its single engine, as the future replacement carrier aircraft. At least if the F-18 is over water and has an engine problem, the pilot still has another engine to limp back to the ship on - the F-35 in the same condition will end up as an artificial reef. I'm just sayin'