Massachusetts security forces headed to Virginia F-15 crash site - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Massachusetts security forces headed to Virginia F-15 crash site

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Virginia State Police say the ground search for a missing pilot after an F-15 crashed Wednesday will resume at 8 a.m. Thursday.

A specially equipped HC-130 aircraft assigned to Moody Air Force Base has been conducting air operation overnight. The aircraft has specialized equipment designed for low-light/night-time search and rescue operations.

Members of the Massachusetts Air National Guard left for the crash site late Wednesday, hours after witnesses reported seeing a parachute deploy in the air.

The eyewitness accounts of a pilot ejection near Elliot Knob, Va. were first published in the Staunton News Leader, although helicopters have not found a parachute.

Sources confirmed members of the 104th Fighter Wing departed on a C-130 cargo plane from Bradley Air National Guard Base, outside of Hartford, Conn. The team consists of Security Forces personnel and additional specialists who will assist in the rescue operation.

There is hope that Mass. based pilot is still alive, as the search within the George Washington National Forest continues during the overnight and early morning hours.

"Every six months, we go through ejection training," said Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander. "With initial pilot training, you get all the training you need as far as survival in the woods and as far as ejection."

Search crews continued to look for the pilot from the air and on foot after nightfall. But crews were confined to "hasty searches" on the ground, which remain close to forest roads and fire trails.

The method is used for the safety reasons, as the off-road terrain within the 20 mile search radius is too rocky, wooded and steep for navigation in the dark.

Seven helicopters supported aerial search missions during the daylight hours, with four continuing into the night. Approximately 10 search-and-rescue teams are involved in Thursday's early morning ground search efforts.

At least 100 state police, sheriff's deputies and fire & rescue personnel have been on scene, with the Air Force securing the crash site.

At approximately 9:05 a.m. Wednesday, Washington Center Air Traffic Control in Washington, D.C. lost radio contact with the F-15C aircraft stationed at Massachusetts's 104th Fighter Wing.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. the 104th learned that the aircraft had crashed in a remote area more than two hours west of Richmond.

According to the National Guard, the single seat F-15C was en route to Naval Air Station New Orleans to receive a radar system upgrade. The flight was not related to a homeland defense mission, and there were no munitions on the fighter jet.

The experienced pilot was flying a solo mission when he reported an in-flight emergency prior to the loss of radio contact with Washington Center.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the pilot and his family, regardless of outcome, this is a traumatic event and we remain vigilant as the search and recovery effort is underway," said Keefe.

Copyright 2014 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved

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