The military fighter jet F-35 went missing on Sept. 18 and was found approximately 24 hours later. The jet went missing after a mishap occurred and the pilot parachuted to safety. The information regarding the jet such as the identity of the pilot will not be released publicly due to privacy and safety precautions.
The pilot landed uninjured in the backyard of a North Charleston, a city in South Carolina, resident’s home. The resident called dispatch after realizing that the pilot had landed in his yard. Shortly after, an ambulance came to check out the pilot. He also told dispatch about the jet before the ambulance arrived.
The jet was found in a rural area in South Carolina. An investigation as to what caused the mishap is currently ongoing and normally takes a few months to come up with both a theory and a solution. Evaluating the F-35 is expected to take close to a year or longer. This process for the jet will take longer because of the modifications added by the Marine Corps. The Navy and Airforce pilots have to eject themselves when using their variants of the jet, whereas the jet variant used in the Marine Corps., can do so automatically while hovering. This causes an unfamiliar situation for the evaluation of the mishap.
When the seat ejected the pilot, it could have been so powerful that it blacked out the controls in the cockpit–including the tracking system. It explains why they lost the jet and needed public assistance to find it. Another theory regarding tracking is that the tracking device was never turned on. If it was not turned on it would be due to the jet following another F-35 that did have the tracking on, since the other pilots would be following one lead jet. The jet is supposed to be as discreet as possible for military operations. The lower the jet went to the ground, the harder it would have been to pick up on a radar.
Officials stated that the decision to eject from the jet was the last resort, and in every situation would be a last case scenario; the decision is never taken lightly. Since the F-35 jet is said to have had an auto-ejection feature that forces the pilot to jump, the jump may not have been voluntary. That said, there’s a possibility that the pilot could have been ejected automatically due to a hazard within the F-35 from the jets programming.
The jet kept flying after the pilot ejected or was ejected for a reason that officials are uncertain of. The current theory is that there was no active engine problem, and the jet remained in autopilot causing it to continue for another 60 miles. The pilot made an attempt to keep track of the jet as he was parachuting down to safety, but due to weather conditions, lost sight of it. The mishap was not from an inexperienced pilot, he is said to have decades of experience with flying in the Marine Corps.