SAN DIEGO — Two crewmen of a Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter ejected safely Friday after guiding their disabled jet away from populated areas just before it crashed and exploded in a canyon about four miles northeast of Miramar Naval Air Station.
Cmdr. John R. Davis, the pilot, and Lt. Bill Minnich, the radar intercept officer, had just taken off from the Navy airfield when their $35-million jet apparently developed engine trouble.
Navy officials credited the fliers with staying in the plane long enough to head it away from densely populated areas before bailing out. The crash site was about a mile north of the San Diego community of Scripps Miramar Ranch and about two miles northeast of Mira Mesa.
"Eyewitness accounts do indicate that they did everything possible to stay in the plane as long as possible to get it (away from) populated areas just before it crashed," Lt. Cmdr. Ellis Woumnm said. Witnesses reported that the crewmen bailed out and landed 50 to 100 yards from the crash site.
Davis and Minnich were taken back to the base, where they had routine medical examinations, officials said. Both fliers are stationed at the Miramar base. Both are described as veteran aviators.
The cause of the 10:30 a.m. crash is under investigation.