Navy jet's close call over crash neighborhood - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Navy jet's close call over crash neighborhood

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - For residents in University City, the sounds of a military jet making an emergency landing over their homes Thursday night was troubling to say the least.

In 2008, a similar jet making an emergency landing destroyed two homes and killed four people in that community.

The statement from the Navy basically says they had a young pilot who got in over his head, so they had him land in a hurry. The problem is people in University City have heard that story before.

Around 11:15 Thursday night, Ron Belanger was working in his office when he says a low-flying Navy jet flew over his neighborhood.

"I ran out of the house… I thought I was getting ready to go one way or the other, over the fence," he said.

If Belanger sounds touchy, it's because of the tragedy that occurred in 2008, when the same type of jet crashed a few doors down from his home.

"The house was totally destroyed and four people were killed here," Belanger said.

Belanger is worried the military learned nothing from that crash. He says pilots are supposed to land from the east at Miramar, not fly over La Jolla, and if they're in trouble they should land at North Island, flying over water, not homes.

"It's safer for everyone involved if they come in over the water," he said.

But that's not what happened Thursday night. The Navy tells News 8 a rookie pilot was training and trying to land his jet on an aircraft carrier out at sea and was struggling. Keep in mind that if a plane doesn't land on a ship it can't refuel.

The Navy told News 8 that due to the pilot's training status, an emergency was declared and the aircraft was diverted to the nearest military air station, which was MCAS Miramar.

A Navy spokesperson told us the plane was not running low on fuel, but Belanger -- a former Navy pilot himself with 20 years of experience -- has his doubts.

"If he was low on gas, that means he thought he might not reach the field. Well if he thought he might not reach the field, why are you over my house?" he said.

Although a Navy statement reads, "There were no mechanical issues that prompted the landing at MCAS Miramar, and the public was not in danger as a result of the declared emergency landing," Belanger feels change is needed and either the military needs better leadership or better pilots.

"It's a complicated thing, that's why you want smart people flying airplanes," Belanger said. "Don't make it my problem."

Belanger admits when an emergency is declared, all bets are off, and the Navy tells us in that situation, landing from the west is approved by the FAA.

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