A fighter pilot on a training mission ditched his jet in a wooded area Wednesday so that the plane would avoid crashing into a suburban Washington, DC, neighborhood, the military says. The F-16C, which military officials said was at least 30 years old and worth $20 million, went down about 200 yards behind a small subdivision of two-story brick homes in the community of Clinton, Md., about three miles southwest of Joint Base Andrews, the AP reports. The pilot was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital, said Lt. Col. Michael Corker, the pilot's commanding officer. No one else was injured. About 20 homes in the area of the crash were evacuated as a precaution, local fire officials said.
The pilot, whose name was not released, is with the District of Columbia Air National Guard and was flying the fighter jet from Maryland to a shooting range in Pennsylvania for a training exercise when the crash happened. Some residents in the area told reporters that they heard what sounded like gunfire after the crash, which officials say may have been training rounds that went off in the crash and subsequent fire. The cause of the crash is being investigated. The pilot tried to turn back toward the base after encountering trouble "but wasn't able to make it in time" and decided to jettison the fighter's extra fuel tanks before ejecting when he was about half a mile off the ground, Corker says.