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U.S. Air Force pilot ejects before jet crashes after graduation flyover

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird jet crashed Thursday in Colorado just after a flyover at a graduation ceremony for Air Force Academy cadets where President Barack Obama had spoken.

Obama met with the pilot after the crash, thanked him for his service

The Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation during graduation ceremonies at the 2016 class of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Thursday in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird jet crashed Thursday in Colorado just after a flyover at a graduation ceremony for Air Force Academy cadets where President Barack Obama had spoken.

The Air Force has identified the pilot as Maj. Alex Turner of Chelmsford, Mass. The Air Force Combat Command says Turner has more than 270 combat hours over Libya and Iraq.

Obama was still at the stadium taking photographs and greeting attendees in a private area during the air show that lasted about half an hour south of Colorado Springs.

News of the crash broke while Obama's motorcade was returning to Peterson Air Force Base for his flight back to Washington.

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulates graduating Air Force Academy cadet Ellis Anne Field on Thursday. An Air Force jet crashed shortly after performing a flyover at the ceremony. A spokeswoman said the pilot ejected. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

The crash occurred about 25 kilometres south of Peterson Air Force Base, where Air Force One was waiting to take off.

The Thunderbirds had just finished their traditional performance at the Air Force Academy graduation, screaming overhead just as the graduating officers tossed their white hats into the sky.

The jets then did multiple flybys over the academy's football stadium, where the ceremony took place, blasting by in tight formations or looping high overhead.

Obama met with the pilot after the crash and thanked him for his service. The president also expressed his relief that he wasn't seriously injured.

There was no obvious sign of trouble with any of the jets during the performance.