A member of the elite Thunderbirds aerobatics unit ejected from his F-16 fighter before his plane crashed, moments after an Air Force Academy graduation ceremony by President Obama.
The pilot, Major Alex Turner, parachuted to safety. His plane was mostly intact despite slamming into the ground.
The Thunderbirds are based at Nellis. Turner is a veteran pilot with 1,200 flight hours and 270 combat hours.
Ann Turner, the pilot's mom, said the fear of watching her son in a life or death situation can be terrifying.
"My stomach just dropped, my heart was pounding, and I just broke down,” said Turner. "It's hard when you know your child is going through something like that. You have to trust he knows what he's doing and know that he has good training, but it doesn't stop you when you're a mom you just worry."
The Thunderbirds mishap is one of two elite air show jets to crash on Thursday.
A Navy pilot died after his Blue Angels fa-18 plummeted in Smyrna, TN.
No one on the ground was injured in either crash.