A student pilot and an instructor pilot from Columbus Air Force Base both died in a plane crash in Montgomery, Alabama on Friday night.
The pilots were flying a T-38C Talon on a routine training mission across the country when the plane crashed around 5:30 p.m. outside Dannelly Field, an Air National Guard base in Montgomery, ACBA Commander Col. Seth Graham told a news conference. in Columbus on Saturday.
An ACBA press release on Sunday identified the instructor pilot as Scot Ames Jr., 24, of Beijing, Indiana. Ames was an instructor pilot with the 50th Flying Training Squadron at the base.
Neither the press release nor Graham revealed the name of the student pilot, but Graham said on Saturday he was a 24-year-old member of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, one of about 15 student- Japanese pilots currently in training at the ACBA.
Graham offered his condolences to the families and friends of the pilots and said base personnel mourned with them.
“We are a tight-knit team here, and the loss of two of our team-mates is something that affects us all,” he said. “Having said that, the strength of our bond is what will get us through this together.”
Authorities do not know the cause of the crash and the Air Force will conduct an official investigation. Graham said authorities have set up an interim security committee to collect and hold information and evidence while the base sets up a separate committee to conduct the formal investigation. He estimated that the investigation could take 30 to 60 days, but the exact timeframe depends on the complexity of the accident.
Graham said investigators will look at several factors, including the weather. Despite winter storms in the Southeast this week, the National Weather Service reported fine weather and clear skies in Montgomery Friday night.
“One thing the Air Force is really good at, unfortunately, is investigating incidents. We have a proven process,” Graham said. “Part of that process is collecting all aspects of what would have affected the mission that day, and the weather is absolutely something the Board of Investigation will take into account when making decisions about the cause of the accident.”
Graham said it was common for pilots to fly cross-country training missions and night missions over the weekend, and the pilots were on the first leg of an overnight trip. “two-step”, although he does not have the final destination at the press conference. He said flight operations have been temporarily suspended and will likely remain so for the next few days.
He said the base community would “rally” and support the family and friends of both pilots in the coming days.
“The outpouring on me personally – and I wasn’t even directly involved, and people are reaching out (to me),” he said. “If this is happening to me, I can only imagine it is happening to the families of those affected as people reach out and do whatever they can to help them through this terrible time. As teammates, we’re going to come together and we’re going to cry together, and we’re going to take this time to heal. »
The last accident involving Columbus Air Force Base pilots occurred in May 2018. A T-38 Talon crashed near the Monroe-Lowndes county line during a routine training sortie. Both pilots of the plane ejected before the crash and were treated and released from Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle that day.
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