PENSACOLA, Fla. – A Blue Angels (search) pilot safely ejected before his jet crashed into the Gulf of Mexico during a training flight Wednesday, a spokesman for the Navy precision flying team said.
The F/A-18 Hornet (search) went down about a mile off Perdido Key, a barrier island on the Florida-Alabama border, and 10 miles from Pensacola Naval Air Station, where the Blue Angels are headquartered.
A rescue team pulled the pilot from the 62-degree water about 10 minutes after the crash. His identity was being withheld pending notification of his family, Blue Angels spokesman Lt. Garrett Kasper said. He was released from the hospital after several hours of observation.
The cause of the crash was under investigation.
"We know he had experienced some mechanical difficulties with the aircraft that made it unable for him to return to Pensacola Naval Air Station and he was forced to out-of-control eject over the Gulf," Kasper said.
Recovery efforts for the $18 million jet were expected to begin Thursday.
"We saw him lose power, and he slowly coasted down," Paul Gordon, a Montgomery, Ala., roofer told WPMI-TV in Mobile, Ala.
The last crash involving a Blue Angels jet ended in the deaths of two pilots in October 1999.