PARKER — Crews searching for a crashed F-16 fighter have found the jet's wreckage in a rugged area of western Arizona, but the pilot's fate is still unclear, Air Force officials said Saturday.
Searchers spotted the wreckage late Friday in an area accessible only by helicopter, said Mary Jo May, a spokeswoman for Luke Air Force Base. May said it isn't clear if the pilot ejected or went down with the aircraft.
The F-16C was on a training flight from Luke, the nation's primary F-16 pilot training base, when the student pilot went down during an air-to-air combat exercise. There were no weapons on board.
The crash happened about noon Friday about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix. The cause 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., 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 identity hasn't been released pending notification of relatives, was part of the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of eight squadrons at the base.
The Glendale base is the world's largest F-16 training base with about 185 F-16s.
In the last two years, the base has had at least two previous jet crashes.
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 that left the base crashed during a training mission at an Air Force bombing range in southwest Arizona. The pilot and instructor bailed out safely.