US Navy rescues aviator who ejected from plane off Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. – The U.S. Navy has rescued one of its aviators who ejected from a plane Wednesday morning off Key West.

Danette Baso-Silvers, with Naval Air Station Key West, confirmed that an aviator from Fighter Squadron Composite VFC-111, a Reserve adversary squadron also known as the Sun Downers, ejected from a plane that launched from Naval Air Station Key West.

It occurred around 9:20 a.m., about 25 miles from Boca Chica Field.

Commander Matt Pearce later confirmed that the aviator was rescued from the water by a Naval Air Station search and rescue helicopter.

The aviator was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital and was seen walking off the helicopter from the hospital’s helipad.

“It’s part of the job. We’re all aware of it,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Geoff Hughes. “We do everything we can to avoid the situation that he found himself in - but sometimes things happen.”

Hughes added that he is thankful for the quick work of the Key West Search and Rescue unit, as well as the medical staff at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

By Wednesday evening, the aviator had been released from the hospital, Hughes said.

Pearce confirmed that the plane involved in the incident was an F5-N dual-engine plane.

This isn’t the first time a Navy pilot has been rescued near Key West.

Back in 2018, a pilot ejected from an F-5N aircraft and was found about 20 nautical miles southwest of Key West.

At the time, a Coast Guard helicopter crew from Miami and a Coast Guard airplane crew conducted a search.

The pilot was rescued and was OK.

But in March 2018, there was a more tragic outcome.

Two Navy aviators on a training flight died after their jet crashed near Naval Air Station Key West.

A spokesman at the time said the plane caught fire in the air, then crashed in shallow waters about one mile from the runway of Boca Chica Field.

The pilot and the weapons system officer onboard parachuted out and were rescued from the water before being taken to a hospital, where they later died from their injuries.

No other details were immediately released about Wednesday’s incident.

“The safety and well-being of our pilot remains our top priority,” officials from Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West said in a statement. “The cause of the incident will be investigated.”

About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

Gio Insignares joined the Local 10 News team in May 2021 as an anchor and reporter. He’ll be co-anchoring the new WSFL Morning Newscast, Monday-Friday from 7-9 a.m., and also contribute to other WPLG newscasts.