PARKER - The pilot of an F-16 fighter that crashed in a rugged area of western Arizona was killed when his plane went down, Air Force officials confirmed Saturday.
The student pilot was practicing air-to-air combat with another F-16 from Luke Air Force Base about noon Friday when his plane crashed, base spokeswoman Mary Jo May said.
Searchers spent hours trying to find the wreckage and it was finally spotted late Friday in a remote area about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix.
Rescuers could only reach the site by helicopter and arrived at daybreak Saturday, May said. They found the pilot's parachute and some of his gear about 150 feet from an impact crater. It took several hours for the Air Force to confirm that he had died in the crash.
The F-16C was on a training flight from Luke, the nation's primary F-16 pilot training base. There were no weapons on board. The cause of the crash isn't known.
Aircraft from the Air Force, Marines, Civil Air Patrol and Arizona Department of Public Safety spent hours searching for the plane before it was located at about 10:30 p.m. Friday, May said. Ground crews on all-terrain vehicles also helped in the search. The wreckage was spotted by a DPS helicopter crew but the wreckage wasn't confirmed as the missing jet until daybreak, May said.
The pilot, whose name hasn't been released pending notification of relatives, was part of the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of eight squadrons at the base. The base is in Glendale and is the world's largest F-16 training base with about 185 F-16s. There have been 17 other crashes of Luke-based F-16s since 1998, and only one of those resulted in a fatality, May said.
That crash happened in May 2004, when a pilot with the Singapore air force died after his jet went down during a training mission at an Air Force bombing range in southwest Arizona.
The most recent crashes came in 2006. A pilot ejected safely from an F-16 in April 2006 after the lone engine on the jet exploded just after takeoff from the base. The aircraft came down in a cornfield.
Nearly nine months later, a two-seat F-16 crashed during a training mission at the same range where the Singapore pilot died. The pilot and instructor bailed out safely.