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2 April 2006
KSL Television
Salt Lake City, Utah USA

Tonya Papanikolas Reporting

"Of course we kept him warm - didn't want exposure or shock at that particular time. He didn't land in water so he was safe, wasn't wet."

As an F-16 pilot recovers from having to eject from his jet, employees at the Utah test and training range are talking about the rescue and recovery.

The pilot was on a training mission with three other jets when something went wrong with his F-16. He was able to eject safely, without any injuries.

The crash site is difficult to get to because it's across water, but emergency crews were able to use a new tool, two hovercrafts. They've been training on them since August, but this is the first time they've been used for a real rescue operation.

The hovercrafts may look like a fun ride at an amusement park, but they were part of a serious rescue operation on Thursday.

Cory Lingelbach, Hovercraft Operator: "The chief was on the phone at that point in time. He looked at me and said, ‘Take the hovercraft, we've got a pilot down on the Salt Flats.'"

The hovercrafts fly on a cushion of air about nine inches off the ground. They can cross both water and land, which came in handy since the pilot had ejected from his F-16 on mudflats, across the Great Salt Lake, near Carrington Island.

Col. Harry Breismester: "It's rough, but he's basically in these mud flats area out there. So it's mainly sandy, but fairly muddy."

The two firefighters reached the pilot in just under an hour. He was up and walking around.

Cory Lingelbach: "Checked his blood pressure, checked his pulse, talked to him. Made sure he knew where he was, what his name was."

The pilot was flown to a local hospital. Later, crews on ATVs checked out the crash scene, about a mile from where he landed. The jet was burned and in pieces.

Crews secured the site, a safety issue with munitions. They also worried that a toxic chemical that helps with jet engine capabilities, may have leaked or broken, but they had good news.

Col. Harry Breismester: "We found the hydrozene container. It was all intact and we have secured that."

Investigators arrive in town tonight to analyze the scene. Eventually, the jet will be taken back in pieces to Hill Air Force Base. Officials say they have recovered the flight data recorder.

Read more about the UtahTest & TrainingRange hovercraft:
Comments on the rescue from the craft operators
Photo Galleries of the UTTR hovercraft in manufacturing and pilot training
Additional News about the UTTR hovercraft

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