LAS VEGAS – An Air Force pilot was killed when his fighter jet crashed during a training exercise in the Nevada desert, Air Force officials said Thursday.
Evidence shows the pilot did not eject from the jet before Tuesday's crash, said Brig. Gen. T.J. O'Shaughnessy of the 57th Wing.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot's immediate family, Air Force family and friends during this difficult time," O'Shaughnessy said in a statement.
The pilot was participating in a combat training mission within military airspace roughly 120 miles north of Las Vegas when the jet crashed on Bureau of Land Management property. The cause of the crash, which happened about 20 miles west of Caliente, was under investigation.
The plane involved was the type used by the Air Force's aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds. The single-seat F-16C Fighting Falcon developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. costs $18.8 million to produce and can travel up to 1,500 mph.
"For the next several weeks, a trained investigation board will focus their exclusive efforts on collecting and protecting evidence from the scene and gathering and analyzing all relevant data with the specific purpose of determining the cause so we may prevent future mishaps," O'Shaughnessy said. "As commander of this wing, the safety of the local community and our Airmen is my top priority."
Las Vegas is home to Nellis Air Force Base, which trains pilots in military flight and combat, frequently sending jets soaring over empty Nevada desert.
Air and ground search teams probed the desert for the missing pilot Wednesday, but did not locate the body.
Officials withheld the pilot's name, citing privacy concerns.
A 2008 accident killed a Nellis airman after he went into a violent spin while attempting a basic turn maneuver at about 350 mph in an F-15 jet.