The U.S. Air Force on Thursday identified three special operations airmen who died when their U-28 single-engine turboprop aircraft crashed during a training flight in New Mexico.
Capt. Andrew Becker, Capt. Kenneth Dalga and 1st Lieutenant Frederick Dellecker were all assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron, according to a news release.
The squadron is an operational flying squadron and part the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Becker, a 33-year-old native of Novi, Michigan, was a pilot for the squadron. He is survived by his spouse, mother and father, the release said.
Dellecker, 26, was a co-pilot from Daytona Beach, Florida. He is survived by his mother and father.
Dalga, 29, was a combat systems officer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is survived by his spouse, son and mother.
The crash occurred a quarter-mile east of Clovis Municipal Airport at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a release from the base. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Kyle Berkshire, director of the airport, told local NBC affiliate KOB4 News on Wednesday the plane was observed performing “touch and goes” on the runway during a training sortie.
"We are deeply saddened by this loss within our Air Commando family," Col. Ben Maitre, the base commander, said in a release on Wednesday. "Our sympathies are with the loved ones and friends affected by this tragedy, and our team is focused on supporting them during this difficult time," he said.
The 318th was activated in 2008 under Air Force Special Operations Command to provide "battlefield mobility for our special operations forces," according to then-Col. Timothy Leahy, the former wing commander.
The unit is tasked with flying a variety of light and medium aircraft known as non-standard aviation, according to a service release. The squadron operates PC-12 aircraft -- designated as the U-28A in the Air Force -- for intra-theater airlift missions, the release said.
The U-28A is operated by the 319th, 34th and 318th Special Operations squadrons, according to the Air Force. Training is conducted by the 5th and 19th Special Operations squadron. The units are located at Cannon and Hurlburt Field, Florida.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.