A fighter pilot safely ejected from an F-16 on the runway after the aircraft caught fire Wednesday during takeoff.
ABC News reported that the fighter jet was making a routine takeoff from Ellington Airport, a shared military and public airport in Harris County, Texas, when a series of explosions were heard and smoke began to rise above one of the airport’s runways.
The pilot, stationed with the U.S. Air National Guard’s 138th Fighter Wing in Oklahoma, is said to have ejected safely, before walking himself off the landing strip and being evacuated to an undisclosed location to be checked out by medical personnel.
Both the pilot and jet were on a training mission as part of the Noble Eagle air defense program, a Homeland Security initiative that runs security missions on military installations, airports and high-profile targets such as bridges, power plants, port facilities, and important base or city assets.
Airport employees and media outlets were quickly evacuated from the facility for safety precautions, and a 4000-foot perimeter around the plane was declared a “danger zone.”
“There is fuel and air-to-air missiles on board [the plane]” said Maj. Anthony Scott, of Air Defense Command, explaining the need for a quick evacuation.
The Houston Fire Department said in a statement that crews had been sent out to assist with a “downed plane” late in the morning on June 21, arrived to find the plane on fire, and the pilot safely ejected.