Witnesses describe moment Thunderbird pilot ejected from falling plane

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — There were several people standing in their yards in southern Colorado Springs Thursday morning, waiting for an air show by the Air Force Thunderbirds. But instead, some saw a single Thunderbird coming down, with the pilot ejecting.

Seeing the planes in the sky is a common sight around this time of year, but as the Thunderbirds flew back to the Colorado Springs Airport, something seemed off.

“There was one plane that followed that seemed to be louder than the others and it was flying extremely low,” witness Rebecca Barnes said.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t think will every happen in your backyard, and today was the day,” witness Justin Haugen said.

“We heard a loud explosion,” Barnes said. “There seemed to be almost a bit of a fiery blast. And we saw the pilot get ejected out of the plane, and a red parachute opened, and he went one direction while the plane continued on its course.”

It’s a sight no fan of the aerial performance group wants to see.

“It’s still surreal to me that it happened,” Haugen said. “That we actually saw this happen.”

“It, like, glided to the ground,” Haugen said. “It was like one of the Air Force Academy gliders coming in for a landing kind of thing.”

The pilot’s safe landing in an open field shows just how skilled these pilots are.

“Obviously he knew what he was doing,” Barnes said. “The landing itself was very calculated, and that it was definitely off in a direction that it wouldn’t have injured anyone or harmed any homes. It definitely landed in the field.”

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