AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The pilot of an Air Force Thunderbird parachuted safely into a Colorado field Thursday, crashing the fighter jet moments after a flyover of a crowd watching President Obama’s commencement address for Air Force cadets.

A short helicopter ride later, the pilot found himself shaking hands with the president on the tarmac at a nearby air base.

“The president thanked the pilot for his service to the country and expressed his relief that the pilot was not seriously injured,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

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

News of the crash broke while Obama’s motorcade was returning to Peterson Air Force Base for his flight back to Washington. Turner ejected about 15 miles south of the Air Force Academy near Peterson, where Air Force One was waiting to take off.

It was the second crash of the day for the military’s elite fighter jet performance teams. The Navy says a Blue Angels F/A-18 fighter jet crashed near Nashville, Tennessee, where the team was practicing for a scheduled performance this weekend. That pilot was killed.

In Colorado, the Thunderbirds had just finished their traditional performance at the commencement, screaming overhead just as the graduating officers tossed their white hats skyward.

The jets then did multiple fly-bys over the academy’s football stadium, where the ceremony was held, blasting by in tight formations or looping high overhead.

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

“What I heard was a big boom,” said Justin Payne, who was working on wallpaper in his house when the plane hit the ground. “I ran outside. Three or four degrees to the left and that jet would have hit our house.”

Payne said the fuselage slid about 2,000 feet before coming to rest. He said it appeared the nose was ripped from the rest of the F-16.

Authorities quickly cordoned off the area, and a hazardous materials crew suited up to inspect the site, said Payne, who added that he was ordered to stay in his house.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexander Rodriguez, an Air Force firefighter stationed in San Angelo, Texas, who was visiting with his family, said he raced from his brother’s house after hearing “a few loud bangs” and saw the plane gliding close to the ground before impact.

“I started booking straight for the aircraft,” Rodriguez said. “I saw the cockpit was empty and checked for any fuel hazard – there was a single fuel leak on the right side. I heard a ticking noise that indicated something was still running and I backed off.”

By then, first responders from Petersen and Colorado Springs were arriving, he said.

The Thunderbirds are the Air Force’s precision flying team, known for their red, white and blue painted F-16 fighter jets. The unit, based at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, will perform more than 40 shows in 2016, according to its website. The vaunted aerial demonstration team has been performing since 1947.

During a performance at the Chicago Air and Water Show in 2005, two of the jets made contact while flying in formation, and a missile rail was dislodged. No one was injured.

Two years earlier, a Thunderbird jet crashed at an air show at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho as about 85,000 spectators looked on. The pilot safely ejected with only minor injuries.