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Marine pilot in remote California collision praised for keeping crew safe

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Posted at 3:32 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 18:38:18-04

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Marine Corps officials say the pilot of a fuel tanker showed impressive skills when he touched down safely in a remote area of California and prevented injuries among the seven other crew members after a mid-air collision with a fighter jet.

A Marine Corps spokesman said Wednesday it's unclear what happened to cause the F-35B to collide with the KC-130J tanker near the town of Thermal in the late afternoon Tuesday.

The jet pilot ejected successfully.

The jet was refueling when the collision occurred. The tanker came in on its belly in a field.

"It was an impressive maneuver bringing it down safely by force," 1st Lt. Brett Vannier, a spokesman at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, told the AP. "His skills kind of speak to itself just in the fact that everyone survived."

"I think the KC-130 crew did a masterful job of airmanship to get that baby down," added aviation safety consultant and retired Marine Corps Col. Pete Field, a former director of the Naval Test Pilot School.