The pilot of a F-15 jet that crashed Wednesday in a remote area of the mountains of Virginia died in the accident, military officials at his Massachusetts base said late Thursday.
The pilot was with the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. The single-seat jet was being transferred from Massachusetts to a base in New Orleans to receive a radar system upgrade when it lost contact with air traffic controllers in the D.C. area about 9 a.m. Wednesday, officials said.
The pilot had reported an in-flight emergency before losing communications, authorities said, but they did not specify what trouble the plane encountered.
The name of the pilot has not been released.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and we are doing all we can to support them during this very difficult time,” Col. James Keefe, commander of the 104th Fighter Wing, said in a release. “We ask that everyone respect the privacy of the family and allow them the time they need to grieve.”
The statement released no details about what may have caused the crash, or where the pilot was found. Air National Guard officials said they expected to release the name of the pilot Friday morning and that the investigation into the crash may last up to five weeks.
The jet crashed in George Washington National Forest about 160 miles southwest of Washington, and Virginia State police were alerted by residents who heard the crash in Augusta County. State police said heavy smoke was spotted coming from the side of a mountain in that area.
Keefe said at a news conference Wednesday in Westfield, Mass., home of the fighter wing, that the plane was flying at about 30,000 to 40,000 feet when the pilot reported the emergency Wednesday morning, the Associated Press reported.
F-15s are maneuverable tactical fighters that can reach speeds up to 1,875 mph, according to the Air Force Web site.