Marine F-35 Missing After Pilot Ejects


The Marine Corps has taken to social media looking for help to find one of its F-35s after the pilot ejected over South Carolina on a training flight Sunday. The pilot landed in a residential area in North Charleston and is recovering in a local hospital. He was reported in stable condition, and an F-35 that was also on the mission landed safely at Joint Base Charleston. The airplane remains AWOL, however, and may be in a nearby lake.

The Marines said the trajectory of the aircraft likely took it in the direction of Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion north of Charleston. Bad weather hampered early search efforts, and the Marines took to X to appeal for the public’s help. The tweet asks anyone who might have seen the F-35 to call the Base Defense Operations Center. The aircraft are based at the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on South Carolina’s southeast coast.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • In a logical world, those tweets would now be called texts (or possibly teXts, depending on how much you like the default letter for a variable).

  1. Finders keepers…Glad no one seriously injured but if I found an F-35, I might want to hang on to it for a while.

  2. Seriously taking to X formally twitter to find a downed fighter jet? This thing has been plagued by costs and technical issues for years. Not sure we the taxpayers have been getting our money’s worth.

  3. Just read a report that the autopilot was engaged and the transponder disengaged before the pilot punched out. Can’t attest for the validity of that report nor come up with a reason (if true) for that.

  4. What I don’t get is why the second pilot didn’t follow the unmanned projectile to see where it went. What, you don’t give a damn about the public down there? Doesn’t seem very honorable for a “gentleman” – even if ( as my father so often noted) it took an act of congress to name him one.

    I also have a problem with the pilot ejecting over a populated area. Stay with it and steer that danged thing away from trouble. Again not very honorable to leave a problem and just hope it doesn’t impact (read kill) other folks.

    NOTE – I am NOT a military hater. I grew up in an Air Force family, both my wife and I are Air Force veterans and I worked as a civilian for the Navy. I like the military. But given the little I know here, I have concerns.

    • “ What I don’t get is why the second pilot didn’t follow the unmanned projectile to see where it went.”

      Follow that unmanned projectile as far as you will, but it’s going to make a smoking hole no matter if you have eyes on or not. I guess if you’re worried about folks on the ground, the second pilot could punch the canopy, hang his head over the side and shout down below “get out the way!” Other than that, not much the second pilot can do about it. Unless you expect a V2, wing tip to wing tip intercept. But please, forgo filming the crash for your YouTube video, put the camera away and follow the human down and start rescue operations.

      “I also have a problem with the pilot ejecting over a populated area.

      Come up with a good definition of “populated area” and be sure to tell the FAA of your findings. Even they have a hard time defining it. But for what it’s worth, that area is in probably some of the least populated areas on the East coast.

        • The pilot ejected, leaving the F35 without a pilot at the controls. The aircraft at that point is lost. A write-off. A smoking hole. Ain’t coming back. It’s a goner. It’s “given back to the taxpayers”.

          What is worth saving and has a chance of survival, is the pilot in the chute. The smoking hole will still be there long after the pilot is rescued.

  5. CNN scoops AvWeb with the following update on this story: “Military officials find debris field belonging to F-35 fighter jet that went missing in South Carolina…”

  6. Sounds like the pilot is going to be okay. Can we start the usual humor? I’m going to point out that this is just one of many reasons that we usually give the Marines hand me down equipment from the other services. Also, has anyone looked around the local junkyards? The plane might be looking for parts in the usual places.

  7. $42,000 per hour ops cost. Yup, look it up. My Cessna at $200 per hour is a fraction of the round-off error for an F-35.