San Diego

Civilian Pilot Ejects Off Coast Near Point Loma

A civilian pilot operating a contracted Hawker Hunter aircraft ejected off the coast near Point Loma and was rescued Tuesday, according to a U.S. Navy spokesperson.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson initially told NBC 7 the pilot had been with the U.S. Navy. Later, a Navy spokesperson confirmed the pilot was a civilian, contracted to help with training exercises.

The pilot ejected approximately 100 nautical miles off the coast, just south of Point Loma around 4:30 p.m.

The aircraft was providing support to the Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) for USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group.

The Hawker Hunter aircraft was operated by the defense contractor, Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), contracted to play the role of the enemy during COMPTUEX.

The U.S. Navy contacted USCG to assist in the rescue, but a Navy chopper was able to hoist the pilot to safety.

At this time, it is unknown if the wreckage has been recovered.

It's not yet known why the pilot ejected from the aircraft.

The pilot was transported to Navy Medical Center San Diego for a full medical assessment.

Back in 2014, another ATAC-operated Hawker Hunter went down near the Ventura County Naval Base during training missions, killing the pilot.

Rich Martindell has flown against Hawker Hunters. The former Air Force aviation accident investigator and current air safety consultant shared some possibilities of what could have gone wrong.

"There’s a number of different things that can go wrong. You have mechanical or internal failure of the engine itself that causes the engine to quit operating. You can have a loss of fuel to the engine," Martindell said. "You can have a loss of oil to lube the engine that causes it to seize and fail. There are all types of reasons that could cause an engine to fail, and that’s part of what accident investigations will look into."

The Hawker Hunter took off from Naval Base Ventura County.

No word yet on whether the contractor will ground the aircraft. 

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