More Air Force resources are being called in to help search for the pilot of an F-15 jet that took off from Barnes Air National Guard Base Wednesday morning and crashed in a thickly-wooded mountain area in Virginia.
Initial inspections of the crash site did not turn up a parachute or ejector seat, according to Corrine Geller, spokesperson for the Virginia State Police.
An F-15C Eagle took off from Barnes en route to Naval Air Station New Orleans for a radar system upgrade. At 9:00 a.m., the pilot reported an in-flight emergency and radio contact with the pilot was lost.
The plane crashed in Washington National Forest near Deerfield Valley, Virginia about five minutes later.
More than 100 state police, sheriff's deputies and fire and rescue personnel conducted a ground search of the area throughout the day on Wednesday, but slowed overnight due to the dangerous terrain around the site. 10 search-and-rescue teams were on the ground as of 1 p.m. searching along logging and forest roads and fire trails, Geller said.
The 104th Fighter Wing has 16 members of its team in Virginia assisting in securing the site and coordinating the rescue operations.
"Our priorities are to both assist in the search and rescue operations, but also provide support to the family of our pilot as well as the unit here at home," said Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander.
Ground search efforts resumed at 8 a.m. Thursday after being suspended at midnight.
Early Thursday morning, the search efforts expanded with seven helicopters and a specially-equipped HC-130 aircraft assigned to Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia.
The HC-130 has specialized equipment designed for low-light/night-time search and rescue operations.
The aircraft began its search operation at 3:00 a.m.
The distress call was the last contact the pilot made, though Col. James Keefe of the 104th Fighter Wing says pilots go through ejection training every six months.
The investigation into the crash is ongoing.
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