An Air Force National Guard pilot whose F-15 fighter jet crashed and burned in the rugged forest of the Shenandoah Valley on Wednesday morning had not been found as of late evening, officials said.
“There is an ongoing rescue mission,” Col. James Keefe, commander of the Massachusetts-based 104th Fighter Wing, said earlier. “At this time we have not had contact with our pilot. The rescue mission is ongoing.”
Keefe, speaking to reporters in Massachusetts, said he could not confirm a witness report that the pilot had ejected and a parachute opened.
Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said about 10 search-and-rescue teams were hunting for the pilot late into the night on the ground and by air.
The $30 million jet crashed in Virginia’s mountainous George Washington National Forest, about 160 miles southwest of Washington, authorities said.
The pilot was talking with civilian air traffic controllers at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Washington Center in Leesburg just before the crash. The FAA declined to characterize the nature of the conversation or indicate whether the pilot was reporting problems in flight.
“The good thing was he did have notification something was wrong with the aircraft, and he did make that call to the Washington center,” Keefe said, declining to define the nature of the problem.
Virginia State Police said they got word of the crash at 9:06 a.m. from residents in the Augusta County community of Deerfield, a village to the west of Interstate 81 about 50 miles southwest of Harrisonburg.