DEERFIELD, Va. (WWLP) – Emergency workers are searching a remote, mountainous area of Virginia for the pilot of an F-15 C Eagle that crashed Wednesday morning while en route from Barnes Air National Guard Base to Louisiana.
Col. James Keefe of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes said that around 9:05 A.M., the pilot had reported some sort of in-flight emergency before air traffic controllers in Washington, DC lost communication with the jet. Less than half an hour later, the Air Force was able to confirm the jet went down near Deerfield Valley, Virginia; not far from the West Virginia state line.
Keefe said that the aircraft, which is one of 18 stationed at the base and dates back to about 1986, had been on the way to New Orleans Naval Air Station to receive upgrades to its radar system. Prior to the accident, it was at high altitude; somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 feet, prior to the accident.
They have not received any communication from the pilot (the only person on-board the aircraft) since the crash, and it is unclear whether the pilot was able to eject before the aircraft went down. Col. Keefe said that if the pilot did eject, it would be likely that he would not have his radio, as pilots are trained to get rid of their survival equipment in the event of a crash in a wooded area (to prevent the equipment from entangling them in a tree).
A rescue operation is currently underway in the sky and on-land. Keefe said that he did not know whether emergency workers had reached the crash site, which he said is in a very remote area; located at about 3,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level. He added that there is no cell phone service in the area, but they are flying satellite communications equipment out to the area to aid in the rescue effort.
The pilot’s identity is not being released at this time, but Col. Keefe said that as is the case for all pilots in the 104th, the pilot of this aircraft was very experienced.
Keefe said that regardless of the outcome, the thoughts and prayers of everyone in the 104th Fighter Wing are with the family of the pilot at this time.
The F-15C Eagles of the 104th are the the intercept wing for the entire Northeastern United States. In that capacity, it is their mission to respond to any airborne threats facing the region. Because the aircraft was flying to Louisiana for repairs, however, there were no munitions on board.
22News will keep you updated with the latest information on this story as it becomes available here on WWLP.com, as well as on 22News on the air.