Pilot ejects from fiery F-16 during takeoff

- A Texas Air National Guard was forced to eject from a fiery F-16 plane during takeoff at Ellington Airport at around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. That pilot was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

The incident caused a closure of the airport followed by a precautionary evacuation as a result of the investigation into the fire.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command said there was live ammunition onboard, but officials on location could not confirm further detail.

In a press conference Wednesday evening, 147th Attack Wing Master Sgt. Sean Cowher said the aircraft and pilot were from the Oklahoma National Guard. He says an interim safety board will now conduct an investigation to determine the exact cause of the fire and exact course of action leading to the pilot's evacuation. Cowher did confirm the fuel tank onboard had been seen touching the ground, resulting in visible sparks.

Cowher said the F-16 never left the ground before the pilot ejected, and that the engine continued running as the aircraft rolled onward down the field. He says response teams had to wait for the plane to burn off it's remaining fuel before approaching.

Cowher confirmed the evacuation zone initially put into place around the 4,000 square foot perimeter of the craft site after the incident had been reduced to 2,500 square feet, which encompasses mostly Ellington Field property with only a few business along the north fence of the property being effected.

The site is currently contained with no risk to the public, according to Cowher.

The Houston Fire Department released the following statement on Wednesday:

Ellington Field is currently under an evacuation after plane went down this afternoon. It was around 10:45 a.m. when crews responded to an F-16 on the ground. The pilot ejected and was taken to the hospital by military transport. The pilot is said to have minor injuries. The evacuation covers a 4000 square foot radius from the crash site and will last for the next 6 hours. According to 147th Attack Wing Public Affairs, there is no threat to any residents. Please forward all media inquiries to NORAD attention Captain Scott Miller 719-554-6889.

The jet has since been moved from where it first caught fire at the aviation facility.

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