PORT HUENEME, Calif. – A military jet on a training exercise crashed into an agricultural field off the Southern California coast on Wednesday, killing the pilot, authorities said.
The plane disintegrated when it hit the ground at about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday as it was preparing to land at Naval Station Ventura County. The crash sent a huge plume of billowing black smoke into the sky.
The pilot, the only person aboard, was pronounced dead at the scene, said Ventura County fire Capt. Mike Lindbery. The pilot's identity was not immediately known.
Nobody on the ground was hurt.
"Fortunately nobody was in that portion of the field," Lindbery said Wednesday night.
Naval Station Ventura County Public Affairs Officer Kimberly Gearhart said the plane had just finished playing the role of an enemy aircraft in an offshore training exercise and was preparing to land when it went down near Pacific Coast Highway.
She said it was unclear whether the pilot reported any problems before the crash about 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating.
The British-built, single-seat Hawker Hunter MK.58 was owned by Airborne Tactical Advantage Co. of Newport News, Virginia. The company, known as ATAC, provides aerial training to the military, including the Navy's elite Fighter Weapons School.
Company officials did not immediately respond to phone and email messages left Wednesday night.
The Hawker Hunter is a single-seat fighter-ground attack plane. Originally designed in the 1950s, more than 2,000 were produced. ATAC describes it as "one of the classic fighter designs of all time."
In May 2012, another Hawker Hunter crashed into a farm field near the Navy base, killing the 57-year-old pilot. That plane had also been contracted to play the enemy in training exercises.
In May 2011, three members aboard a Boeing 707 tanker loaded with jet fuel escaped with only minor injuries when their aircraft skidded off the runway while taking off from the base and exploded into flames. That plane was carrying civilians and had a contract to provide fuel transport.