The Hawker Hunter jet was supporting a Hawaii Air National Guard exercise.
An ex-military jet operated by a private aviation company slammed into the water off the coast of Hawaii yesterday, injuring the pilot. The vintage Hawker Hunter fighter jet was playing the role of adversary in an exercise with the Hawaii Air National Guard.
According to eyewitness accounts, the single-seat fighter jet crashed off the island of Oahu, in the vicinity of Sand Island. Video shared by CBS News shows the pilot ejecting at very low altitude, with the aircraft crashing into the water shortly thereafter.
A group of parasailers in a nearby boat rescued the pilot, diving into the water, untangling his parachute and bringing him aboard. The pilot was then transferred to a U.S. Coast Guard ship and transferred to a local hospital, where he was in serious condition.
The Hawker Hunter was an early first-generation fighter jet. Developed by the United Kingdom, the Hunter entered service with the RAF in 1954. The Hunter has a maximum speed of 525 knots indicated airspeed, powered by a single Rolls-Royce Avon 207 turbojet engine. The aircraft has a maximum range of 1,300 nautical miles.
The plane was owned by Airborne Tactical Advantage Company, a private military contractor firm that specializes in flying older, retired fighter jets. ATAC has found a niche in supplying jets and trained pilots to the U.S. Armed Forces to act as simulated enemy aircraft during training exercises. They’re also used to augment U.S. military jets flying in the aggressor role, provide close air support in exercises, and even simulate incoming cruise missiles.
The Hunter was flying in support of a Hawaii Air National Guard exercise, but exactly what it was doing has not been released. Earlier this year, ATACs flew in support of the U.S. Navy’s TOPGUN fighter training program and the 2018 Rim of the Pacific naval exercises.
ATAC’s antique but well maintained fleet includes ex-Swiss Air Force Hawker Hunters, ex-Israeli Kfir fighter jets, and Czechoslovakian-made L-39 Albatros jet trainers. The company is currently adding French-made Mirage F1 fighters to its inventory.