Thursday June 2 was a bad day overall for flight demonstration squadrons of the US military when two separate and unrelated incidents in Colorado and Tennessee saw the loss of two flight demonstration aircraft and the death of one pilot.
USA Today tells of Marine Captain Jeff Kluss, 32, of Durango, Colo. and part of the renowned Navy Blue Angels Squadron, who was killed when his F/A-18 crashed in Smyrna, Tenn. moments after takeoff during a practice flight in preparation for The Great Tennessee Air Show this coming weekend.
Navy spokespersons interviewed in the aftermath have said that the cause of the crash was already being investigated. Captain Kluss, according to The Tennessean, graduated 2006 from Fort Lewis College in Colorado and was commissioned in the Marine Corps that same year as a Second Lieutenant, joining the prestigious Blue Angels in 2014. The public affairs officer at Fort Lewis College has expressed their sorrow over Kluss’s fate and extended condolences to his family on behalf of his alma mater and fellow.
Before the tragic event, the Blue Angels had urged fans in the local area through Facebook to watch the skies at 9:40 AM local time in order to see them as they make their way to the air show at Smyrna, but not before performing a flyover over Nashville International Airport.
In the other incident, a pilot with the US Air Force Thunderbolts Squadron crashed his demonstration F-16 in the middle of a flyover for the Air Force Academy’s graduation rites near Peterson AFB in Colorado. Air Force officials confirmed the crash. The pilot, a Major Alex Turner, was able to pilot his crippled plane to an open and unpopulated area before safely ejecting, unharmed.
In something of an auspicious moment, President Barack Obama was present at the AF Academy graduation to deliver the commencement address, as confirmed by the White House to The Guardian. Spokesman Josh Earnest said that a military helicopter providing air support for the Presidential motorcade was ordered to break formation in order to locate the crash site. A Secret Service agent aboard the chopper, who was also a trained medic, gave an assessment of the pilot alongside first responders on the scene. Maj. Turner was safely flown to Peterson for treatment while the military chopper returned to support Obama’s motorcade.
The President would later visit Maj. Turner, who was up and walking about, at Peterson, thanking him for his service and expressing relief at his not being worse off. Obama also saluted the responders who recovered the pilot from where he ejected.
Back in Tennessee, fans of the Blue Angels have flooded their Facebook page with condolences for their loss and well wishes.
Photo Credit to Navytimes.com