Author: Ava Bell
Whether it be car keys, a phone or a wallet, it is no shock that humans lose track of their belongings all the time. However, it came as a surprise when a United States Marine Corps jet went temporarily missing after the pilot ejected from it just over a week ago.
Around 5:30 pm EST on Sunday, Sep. 17, 2023, Joint Base Charleston, an Air Base located in North Charleston, South Carolina, posted an announcement on Twitter saying, “We’re working with @MCASBeaufortSC [Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort] to locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon.”
This jet was a 51.2-foot F-35B Lighting II was designed by an aerospace defense company called Lockheed Martin. According to the official F-35 website (www.f35.com) this type of aircraft is only flown by the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the United Kingdom and the Italian Air Force. Specifically, the previously missing plane belonged to an East-Coast aviation unit called 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and was a art of a 27-piece training squadron.
Photo credit: Darren England/AAP
“[We] are responding to a mishap involving an F-35B Lightning II jet from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.” Joint Base Charleston posted on Facebook that same evening: “The pilot ejected safely and was transferred to a local medical center in stable condition. Emergency response teams are still trying to locate the F-35.”
According to an audio recording of the 911 call released by the Charleston County government, the pilot has been said to have ejected with the emergency parachute from the plane and landed in the backyard of a South Carolina home. The homeowner stated in the call, “I guess we got a pilot in our house, and he says he got ejected from a plane. So we’re just seeing if we could get an ambulance please.” Followed by confusion from the dispatcher, the pilot jumps in, saying, “We had a military jet crash. I’m the pilot. We need to get rescue rolling. I’m not sure where the airplane is. It would have crashed somewhere. I ejected.”
When asked what caused the 2,000- foot fall, the pilot said that the aircraft had a failure. Government officials, however, have said they are unsure of what caused the plane to fail.
The search for the missing plane took 28 hours and a whole lot of teamwork. In another Facebook post, this time on Monday, Sep. 18, 2023, Joint Base Charleston announced that they were “cooperating with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing out of MCAS Cherry Point, Navy Region Southeast, the FAA, the Civil Air Patrol, as well as local, county, and state law enforcement across South Carolina.”
With the help of these teams, it was announced Monday evening that the debris was found two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston in Williamsburg County. On social media, this story gained traction due to the absurdity of losing an entire military plane. Sites such as Twitter were blowing up with memes and jokes making fun of the government for not only the initial loss of the aircraft, but also their inability to find it. The story even got comments from South Carolina State Representative Nancy Mace: “How in the hell do you lose an F-35?” Mace continued, “We knew the F-35 was stealth, but this is ridiculous.”
However, for some, the matters were much more serious. On Sep. 18, 2023, the USMC released a statement ordering an aviation safety stand down where General Eric M. Smith directed all aviation units to participate in a two-day discussion on aviation safety.
The press release says, “During the stand down, aviation commanders will lead discussions with their Marines focusing on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance and flight procedures, and maintaining combat readiness.”
While rumors have spread, at this time, the reason for the malfunction of the jet has still not been found. However, the pilot is safe, and the debris is no longer missing.