U.S. Air Force 'Thunderbirds' F-16 jet crashes in Nevada, killing pilot

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Air Force pilot with the traveling Thunderbirds exhibition squad was killed early Wednesday when his F-16 jet crashed at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada, the third crash involving a military aircraft in the past two days.

“It’s been a rough day,” an Air Force spokesman said.

The pilot was on a training mission flying a F-16 Fighting Falcon over the Nevada Test and Training Range near Las Vegas when it crashed about 10:30 a.m. local time, the spokesman said.

The name of the pilot is being withheld pending notification of the family, the Air Force said in a statement early Thursday, adding that an investigation into the cause of the crash has begun.

The jet was part of the Air Force’s Thunderbirds Squadron, a flying team that performs aerial demonstrations across the United States as well as internationally.

The team’s upcoming performance at the March Air Force Reserve Base in Riverside County, Ca., on April 7 and April 8, has been canceled according to the statement.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter crashed during a training mission in Southern California. All four crew members are believed to have been killed.

Another Marine jet crashed in Djibouti on Tuesday. The pilot was in stable condition.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Rich McKay; Editing by Peter Cooney & Shri Navaratnam