Civil Air Patrol assisting in search for F-15 pilot

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Members from CAP's Middle East Region carrying out air, ground missions in Virginia

Civil Air Patrol’s Middle East Region is filling the highbird role, helping provide airborne communication coordination, in the search for a missing Air National Guard pilot whose F-15 fighter jet crashed Wednesday morning in Virginia. CAP members are also participating in the search effort on the ground.

The F-15 crashed about 9 a.m. local time Wednesday near Deerfield, Va. The impact left a deep crater and a large debris field in a level, heavily forested area beside a mountain in George Washington National Forest, officials said.

After the pilot reported trouble at about 30,000 feet, air traffic control in Washington lost the plane off radar and communication with the pilot in the Hot Springs, Va. area. The pilot, assigned to the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing, was headed from Massachusetts to Louisiana for a routine radar upgrade on the F-15.

The crash occurred about 50 miles from where a Virginia Wing CAP airplane was participating in another mission. As a result, when the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., authorized CAP’s participation in the search, the wing had already established a mission base at Virginia Highland Airport in Abingdon and was able to immediately begin serving as highbird for the search. Also, seven teams consisting of about 10 members each were formed on very short notice and they worked throughout the night.

Col. David Crawford, North Carolina Wing commander, has taken over for Lt. Col. Eugene Jackson, Middle East Region deputy chief of staff, as commander of the Abingdon mission base, assisted by Lt. Col. Josh Schmidt, the National Capital Wing’s assistant director of operations. Col. James A. Covel, Virginia Wing commander, is serving as liaison officer at Deerfield Fire Department.

The ground search for the pilot resumed this morning after being suspended around midnight. Crawford expects more than 60 CAP members from Virginia, National Capital (metro Washington, D.C.) and North Carolina wings along with three aircraft and more than 15 CAP vehicles to participate in the search today. Highbird operations are expected to continue overnight at this time.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 60,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs about 85 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 70 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 25,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 72 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit or for more information.

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Steve Cox

Julie DeBardelaben
Civil Air Patrol
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