EL CENTRO, Calif. -- A Blue Angels pilot escaped with minor injuries Tuesday after his F/A-18 Hornet collided with another Blue Angels aircraft in California.
Marine Capt. Chase Moseley, age unknown, originally of meridian, Miss., was treated for bruises and cuts to his face and released from El Centro Regional Medical Center. Moseley safely ejected from his F/A-18 about 12:15 p.m., said Navy officials. The $18 million aircraft was destroyed.
Moseley, who has been flying with the Pensacola-based aerial demonstration team less than two months, was flying the No. 2 aircraft in the team's diamond formation on a training flight when the accident occurred, said Lt. Cmdr. Ray Kempisty, a spokesman for the Chielf of Naval Education and Training.
Moseley's F/A-18 collided with another jet flown by Blue Angel flight leader and commanding officer Cmdr. Pat Moneymaker, 43. The jets collided over the desert of the Naval Aerial Gunnery Range near the Superstition Mountains, said Kempisty.
Moneymaker and the two other pilots flying in the formation -- Lt. Cmdr. Dave Inman, age unknown, of Memphis, Tenn., and Lt. Cmdr. Doug McClain, 32, originally of Oklahoma City, who has been with the team since October 1987 -- were uninjured in the accident, according to the Navy.
Inman joined the Blue Angels about the same time as Moseley, officials said.
Moneymaker's aircraft sustained minor damage and made an arrested landing at El Centro, said Lt. Rusty Holmes, spokesman for the Blue Angels.
The gunnery range is one of two locations near the El Centro Naval Air Facility in the Imperial Valley where the Blue Angels train from January through their first show in March. The range is about 100 miles east of San Diego.
Weather was not believed to be a factor. Tuesday was warm and hazy in the El Centro area.
Moseley ejected from the single-seat aircraft and was picked up by a search and rescue helicopter from El Centro Regional Medical Center. The twin-engine fighter crashed in the desolate uninhabited area, Navy officials said.
The crash site was about 100 yards wide and at least a mile long. Is was described as 100 acres of soft sand, punctuated by dry brush and mesquite and inaccessible by car. At least three Navy vehicles were reported to have become stuck in the sand trying to get to the crash site, officials said.
Once at the scene, a team of about 50 sailors and Marines combed the crash site. Searchers recovered the F/A-18's flight data recorder which will provide information on altitude and other flight information.
The investigation into the crash should take between 30 and 60 days, officials said.
Like Pensacola, El Centro residents "feel like the Blues belong to them," said Willie Morris, city editor of The Imperial Valley Press. "After they train here they put on a big show that draws huge crowds."
"El Centro loves the Blues," he said.
The Blue Angels are expected to resume their twice-a-day, two-hour, six-day-a-week training schedule today just as they did after their crash which occurred on Feb. 12, 1987, near El Centro after a routine training mission.
Mosely is expected to be back in the air -- in another of the Blue Angels' Hornets.
The last fatal crash was in July 1985 when Lt. Cmdr. Michael Gershon, 32, of Pensacola, died during an airshow in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Patricia Rice of The Imperial Valley Press contributed to this report.
Newspaper clipping submitted by Linda Moneymaker/Iversen