A major search and rescue operations is underway after a F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed roughly a mile off the end of the runway at Naval Air Station Key West in Boca Chica Key. The jet belonged to VFA-213 'Black Lions' based out of NAS Oceana in Virginia. There is no word yet on the status of the jet's crew.
NAS Key West is home of VFC-111 'Sundowners," a fleet adversary support squadron that flies F-5Ns, and is historically a Mecca for Navy fighter pilots who flock to the base to enjoy the vast supersonic military operating areas nearby, primarily to train in the art of air-to-air combat.
Topgun and other aggressor units also visit the field periodically to challenge fleet aviators and to support Fleet Replenishment Squadrons training of new fighter pilots. The great weather even draws-in T-45 detachments teaching young naval aviators more basic skills.
UPDATE: 4:10pm PST—
Apparently both the pilot and the weapons system officer ejected from the aircraft but we don't know their status at this time.
The reports from those who saw the crash are pretty intense:
“I saw the fire and then it just dropped,” said Barbie Wilson, who lives nearby and was driving when she saw the plane turn sideways and then burst into flames.
“In the air, I saw fire,” Wilson said.
Here's a picture of the search effort. It looks like the burnt hulk of the jet is sitting in shallow water:
UPDATE: 4:40pm PST—
Both pilots were recovered and taken to the local hospital, but once again we don't know their status. The jet was on final approach to the end of the runway.
We will update this post as soon as new information comes available.
UPDATE: 7:05pm PST—
It is so saddening to report that both of the Super Hornet's crew have died following their ejection from the aircraft.
Here is the Navy's full statement:
UPDATE: 7:30pm PST—
Here's what's left of the jet:
Its odd the hook is extended like that, maybe a sign of an in-flight emergency/emergency recovery.
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