U.S. fighter plane crashes in Virginia, pilot's fate unknown

by Reuters
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 16:54 GMT

(Adds police, National Guard comment, byline)

By Ian Simpson

Aug 27 (Reuters) - A Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15C fighter crashed in mountainous western Virginia on Wednesday and the fate of the pilot was unknown, officials said.

The fighter plane went down shortly after 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Washington, sending up a thick plume of smoke, a spokeswoman for the Augusta County Sheriff's Office said.

"We have not located the wreckage or the pilot," she said.

State and local police are trying to reach the crash site in mountainous terrain lacking cell phone coverage. There were no injuries on the ground, she said.

The single-seat plane was part of the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, stationed at the Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts.

Senior Master Sergeant Rob Sabonis, a wing spokesman, said the plane was on a cross-country flight for a system upgrade and was not carrying munitions.

The pilot reported an "inflight emergency" shortly before the base lost radio contact, he said. The pilot was not identified.

Colonel James Keefe, the wing's commander, said in a statement: "We are not going to speculate on what occurred or the status of the pilot. We are hopeful that the pilot is OK, and the pilot will be in our thoughts and prayers as the events of this incident unfold."

The F-15 is a twin-engine fighter designed by McDonnell Douglas, a unit of Boeing Co. It has been in U.S. service since the 1970s. (Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Editing by Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham)

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