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F-16 fighter jet crashes in Yavapai County; pilot presumed dead

Courtesy photo<br>A USAF F-16C over Iraq in 2008

Courtesy photo<br>A USAF F-16C over Iraq in 2008

BAGDAD - An F-16 fighter jet from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix crashed Thursday, Jan. 21, in a remote area of Yavapai County and an official said that the pilot, a member of the Taiwanese Air Force, was presumed dead."All indications lead me to believe the pilot did not survive," although his body has not been located, said Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander.The crash occurred at about 8:45 a.m. in rugged terrain near Bagdad, west of Prescott, Luke officials said.Yavapai County Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said the crash site was found south of Bagdad by the YCSO's Rescue-1 helicopter crew about four hours after the jet went down. "Deputies on the ground located hunters who had seen a plume of smoke in a particular area and relayed the information to the Rescue-1 pilot," D'Evelyn said.The area is sparsely populated. Bagdad is about 85 miles northwest of Luke AFB, which is located in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale.Base officials said the jet was assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke, which is a major pilot-training base for the Air Force and foreign military services.The pilot who crashed was a student and was flying the single-seat fighter in tandem with an instructor in another F-16.He was performing "some kind of high-G maneuver" when the plane crashed, Pleus said.The pilot had been training at Luke for about six months.Cause of the crash wasn't known, and the Wing's commander established an interim safety board to conduct a preliminary investigation, Luke officials said in a news conference Thursday.Several civilian agencies sent aircraft and personnel in response to word of the crash.The YCSO sent a helicopter to look for the crash site, while DPS sent troopers, a rescue helicopter and explosive ordinance and hazardous material teams, spokesmen said.Recent previous crashes involving F-16s from Luke included one on a training mission in southern New Mexico. That pilot ejected safely.So did an instructor pilot and a student pilot in June 2013 after their two-seat F-16 hit several birds during takeoff from Luke. The jet crashed in a farm field.An Air Force investigation report said the instructor pilot was at fault because he made a rapid climbing turn after the bird strike, robbing the plane of airspeed and the ability to recover and return to the base.Daily Courier reporter Scott Orr contributed to this story.Click here to view map.
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