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Thunderbird pilot steered clear of home before ditching jet after Air Force Academy graduation

Posted: 6:15 AM, Jul 26, 2016
Updated: 2016-07-26 08:15:45-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- An Air Force Thunderbird pilot who ditched his jet moments after flying over the Air Force Academy's commencement ceremony reported engine trouble and told air traffic controllers he was aiming the plane away from a home before he ejected safely into a field.

Maj. Alex Turner of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, had just flown the No. 6 Thunderbird over the crowd watching President Barack Obama's commencement address June 2. In an audio recording between air traffic controllers in Colorado Springs and the elite flying team, Turner said his jet was having engine problems.

About 10 seconds later, he told the tower he was aiming the plane away from a home and "getting out."

Turner, who has served in Libya and Iraq, ejected safely and wasn't seriously injured. A rescue helicopter then ferried him to a face-to-face meeting with Obama.

ABC News reported that President Obama thanked Turner for his service and expressed relief he wasn't seriously injured.

Turner had logged over 1,500 hours in the F-16 but this was his first show season with the team, according to Lt. Col. Christopher Hammond with the Thunderbirds. Turner joined the team back in October of 2015.

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