WESTFIELD, Mass. – The pilot of an F-15 jet that crashed this week in remote Virginia mountains was killed, military officials said Thursday.
Col. James Keefe said his “thoughts and prayers are with the family” of the pilot, whose identity wasn’t disclosed.
The pilot and jet were with the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
The F-15 fighter jet crashed in the mountains of western Virginia on Wednesday, shaking residents but causing no injuries on the ground.
Authorities said the pilot of the single-seat jet was headed to New Orleans for radar installation as part of routine maintenance and reported an inflight emergency before losing radio contact.
Search teams had been looking for the pilot since shortly after the jet crashed around 9 a.m. Wednesday. More than 100 local, state and federal officials as well as volunteers took part in the effort.
Officials haven’t said whether the pilot ejected or what caused the crash, which left a deep crater and a large debris field in a heavily wooded but level area adjacent to a mountain in the George Washington National Forest.
They said an official safety investigation board is being convened and the investigation into the crash was ongoing.
Keefe said at a news conference Wednesday in Westfield, home of the fighter wing, that there were no munitions onboard the jet at the time of the crash.
Keefe said the plane was flying at about 30,000 to 40,000 feet when the pilot reported the emergency. Pilots are trained to release equipment when ejecting, Keefe said, so it was likely the pilot did not have a radio.
F-15s are maneuverable tactical fighters that can reach speeds up to 1,875 mph, according to the Air Force website. The F-15C Eagle entered the Air Force inventory in 1979 and costs nearly $30 million, the website says. The Air Force has nearly 250 F-15s.
Several F-15s have crashed over the past few years in various states. In at least one, the pilot ejected safely. Causes included failure of a support structure for the jet and pilot error.