A United States Marine Corps (USMC) pilot who managed to land his KC-130J following a mid-air collision with an F-35B fighter in 2020 has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On September 29, 2020, the two aircraft were conducting air-to-air refueling operations as part of Weapons and Tactics Instructor training when they made contact. Consequently, the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II crashed near Salton City, in California. The pilot managed to successfully eject. No ground injuries were reported.
The Lockheed KC-130J Hercules, registration number 166765, lost two engines in the collision. Fortunately, Captain Michael Wolff, assisted by his co-pilot and six Marine crew members, managed to land the aircraft with its gear-up in a field in Riverside County, also in California. The tanker was subsequently written off and scrapped.
Wolff was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the highest US military aviation award, the USMC reported on May 25, 2022.
“I’m thankful how everything turned out. I’m happy to be alive” said Wolff in a statement. “I still love flying, and I was happy to get up in the air as soon as I could afterwards”
His copilot, Major Cory Jones, received the same distinction on February 28, 2022.