The search for the missing 104th Fighter Wing pilot expands with additional Air Force resources in the George Washington National Forest near Deerfield.
An F-15C Eagle assigned to the 104th Fighter Wing crashed at approximately 9:05 a.m. Wednesday; radio contact with the pilot was lost about 5 minutes earlier.
Since Wednesday morning, a search and rescue operation has been on-going in Virginia. The search efforts now include a specially equipped HC-130 aircraft assigned to Moody Air Force Base, this aircraft has specialized equipment designed for low-light/night-time search and rescue operations. The HC-130 has been conducting air operation since 3:00 a.m. Additionally as many as seven helicopters have been conducting aerial night searches.
Throughout the day Wednesday, at least 100 state police, sheriff’s deputies and fire and rescue personnel had been on scene. The ground search slowed overnight due to the dangerous terrain around the crash site. Approximately 10 search-and-rescue teams were on the ground searching along logging roads, fire trails and forest roads. The terrain is too treacherous for off-road ground searches in the dark, according to Corinne Geller, Virginia State Police Public Relations Manager.
The search for the missing pilot and the investigation into the crash are ongoing.
Summary of Facts
– At approximately 0905 local time this morning Washington Center lost radio communications with one of our F-15C aircraft flying cross-country over Western Virginia, we later learned around 0930 that the aircraft had crashed in a remote site near Deerfield Valley.
– The aircraft was flying to New Orleans Naval Air Station to receive a system upgrade. The mission was not tied to our home station alert mission, and the aircraft was not carrying any munitions.
– The aircraft was flying by itself and it is a single-seat fighter (with a single pilot). The pilot reported an In-flight Emergency prior to us losing communication with the Washington center controller. The specific details of that communication are not being released due to the ongoing investigation
– A rescue mission is ongoing and is a joint effort between local fire and police, state police, the Virginia National Guard, Army and Air, and other federal agencies. At this time we have not had contact with the pilot and search and rescue assets have been deployed to the area to include helicopters.
– More than 100 member of the Virginia State Police, Virginia Air and Army National Guard, Massachusetts Air National Guard and Air Force and Air Force Reserve Personnel are part of the ongoing search operations
– The search operation is employing as many as seven helicopters and specialized search and rescue aircraft like a HC-130 assigned to Moody Air Force Base and a C-26 assigned to the Syracuse, New York, Air National Guard unit.
– Operations overnight involved slowed ground searches due to the dangerous terrain, but up to seven aerial assets employed infrared cameras to aide in the search operations
– Members from Barnes traveled on Wednesday night to assist in the search and rescue Operations; they are currently on-scene securing and directing aspects of the recovery
– We do not know the status of the pilot, the investigation is ongoing.
– There was a reported witness account of seeing a parachute before the crash, but that report was unfounded.