The military pilot who averted disaster by steering a crippling fighter jet away from a Maryland neighborhood before it crashed was awarded Sunday.
Cpt. Jonathan Morgan was doing a training exercise over the D.C. area on Wednesday, April 5 when he took a sharp turn to avoid restricted airspace above D.C. and quickly realized something was wrong with his engine.
"As I'm trouble shooting that, I'm over Old Town Alexandria. My engine gives out on me," Morgan said.
His training told him it was time to drop his external fuel tanks.
"I decided not to drop those over Old Town, but instead drop them over the Potomac," he said.
But Morgan and his jet -- which quickly became a multimillion-dollar glider -- weren't out of trouble yet. Flames then started coming out of the back of the jet's engines.
At that point, he was back over the suburban sprawl of Prince George's County, Maryland, and he wasn't going to make it back to Joint Base Andrews.
"Fortunately, I was able to find an open field to put the aircraft in," he said. "When I realized I couldn't make the field I was looking outside the craft trying to find a place to put it that would cause the least harm."
The plane crashed in a wooded area in Clinton, Maryland, about 600 feet from the nearest home. Morgan ejected himself from the jet at the last possible moment -- a violent procedure that set off little rockets underneath his seat.
"It's a 14 G explosion basically straight up," he said.
Morgan parachuted to the ground and walked out of the woods unscathed. No one on the ground was hurt.
The D.C. National Guard honored Morgan Sunday with the Brigadier General Howard W. Kacy Flying Safety Award.