As rescuers combed the woods of western Virginia Thursday for the Massachusetts Air National Guard pilot whose F-15 Eagle plummeted into a hillside, many had been holding out hope that the pilot was able to get free from the plane before it crashed.
Those hopes were dashed late Thursday when Colonel James Keefe, commander of the 104th Fighter Wing in Westfield, Mass., announced that officials had confirmed the pilot had died.
It was not immediately clear if the pilot was able to eject from the plane or not. The pilot’s name was being withheld pending notification of family members, Keefe said in a statement.
Ejection, a potentially life-saving option during an in-flight emergency, carries its own set of dangers. And even if investigators are able to determine that the pilot was extricated from the doomed jet, there are many other crucial factors to consider.
Officials with the pilot’s Westfield-based unit, who said they could not comment specifically about this incident, said the circumstances of ejection generally depend on how long a pilot has to prepare for the release, how fast the plane is traveling, and at what altitude.
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