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For the second time in three years, a US Navy fighter jet has crashed in Death Valley National Park.
The plane, a F/A-18F Super Hornet belonging to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 9, crashed at approximately 3 p.m. on October 4. The pilot successfully ejected and was treated for minor injuries at a hospital in Las Vegas. No visitors to the park were injured; the crash occurred in a remote southern portion of the Death Valley near Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, where the jet launched from, and which borders the park to the southwest.
Plane-spotting is a popular pastime in Death Valley National Park, where US fighter jets often perform low-flying training missions through the narrow, rocky canyons. Pilots involved in these crashes aren’t always so lucky. In 2019, the same exact model of fighter jet crashed in “Star Wars Canyon” (Rainbow Canyon) near Father Crowley Vista Point in a western area of the park, killing Lt. Charles Z. Walker and injuring several bystanders. The incident was the first of its kind since the 1990s to occur in the canyons, where the military has trained pilots since the 1930s. Military training flights are typically not permitted over national parks; the section of Death Valley where the crashes occurred was specially designated as a venue for them when Congress added the area to the park 27 years ago.