OXNARD (CBSLA.com) — A seasoned pilot died when a military-style aircraft crashed near Port Hueneme in Ventura County.
The crash involving a Hawker Hunter aircraft happened just after 5 p.m. Wednesday in an agricultural field as the jet approached the Point Mugu naval base.
About two dozen firefighters responded to the crash, which sent a plume of smoke that was visible for miles.
“I was like, ‘Wait a minute. No, this can’t be real.’ Then I was like, ‘Oh my God! This is crazy,'” an unidentified witness told KCAL9’s Peter Daut.
The witness, who lives in the area, said he saw the plane go down and took photographs on his cellphone.
“Amazingly loud. Then, it was just a huge fireball. You could see parts just go everywhere,” he said of the crash.
Capt. Mike Lindbery, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department, confirmed the fatality via Twitter.
The aircraft was owned and operated by Airborne Tactical Advantage Co., a civilian contractor.
ATAC described the male pilot as a “seasoned military retired fighter pilot.” His identity has been withheld pending notification of next of kin.
But Wednesday’s crash was similar to one that occurred in 2012 only three miles away and also involved a Hawker Hunter jet owned by ATAC.
“It’s really tragic. It’s unfortunate the pilots in both the incidents have lost their lives,” Ventura County fire Capt. Lindbery told Daut.
Daut reports that the aircraft, known to hold only one person, are commonly used for pilot training.
“These aircraft, they’re inherently dangerous. Even if they’re doing a civilian missions, there are going to be issues,” the captain said.
The NTSB is expected to assist the FAA with its investigation.