27 June 2007

RIP Maj. Gregory D. Young

Godspeed Grumpy

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - An Oregon Air National Guard pilot who died when his F-15A crashed into the Pacific Ocean was in training that included mock dogfighting with Marine Corps Reserve warplanes, military officials said Wednesday.

He was identified as Maj. Gregory D. Young, 34, of St. Helens, Ore., the Guard said.

The remains were found Tuesday evening nearly 40 miles west of Cannon Beach, on the northern end of the Oregon coast, Guard officials said. The F-15 was destroyed on impact when it went down about five hours earlier, they said.

Air National Guard officials praised fast action by the Coast Guard, saying its helicopters were on the scene in about 30 minutes.

They said the announcement that the remains had been recovered was delayed until Wednesday morning at the request of the family.

Guard officials at a press conference Wednesday would not speculate on what happened and offered few details about such conditions as the altitude of the fighters.

The single-seat F15A is among the older of the F-15 series and is being phased out in favor of a longer-range F15C model. There also is an F-15B, which is a two-seater.

The age of the plane that crashed Tuesday was not immediately available.

"He was a very talented young man with many years of dedicated service to the protection of the freedoms we enjoy today," said Col. Steven Gregg, commander of the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard stationed in Portland.

Gregg said the ocean was from 700 to 1,700 feet deep at the crash site, but some parts could wash ashore. He urged people who find what might be parts of the jet not to touch them and to contact authorities because the carbon fiber used in its construction can be harmful if mishandled.

The training exercise pitted four F-15s from the Oregon Guard against a like number of F/A-18s from a Marine Corps Reserve unit stationed near Fort Worth, Texas.

It was designed to sharpen fighting skills by giving the pilots experience in flying against a different kind of aircraft, Guard officials said. The training was preparation for an August exercise at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Guard officials said.

Air National Guard spokeswoman Maj. Misti Mazzia said Young had about 700 hours of flying time in F-15s and more than 1,000 hours in other military aircraft, but had not been on a combat tour.

He had previously been stationed in Texas and Idaho and joined the 142nd in Portland in March 2006.

She said the F-15s commonly train at speeds of around 400 mph but can reach 1,000 mph if they have to.

A fellow pilot reported to searchers from the Coast Guard that no parachute was seen. The Coast Guard sent helicopters, cutters and a C-130 aircraft, and said it had found a debris field.

"The nature of flying combat fighter aircraft is one that implies operating on a razor's edge," said Brig. Gen. Dan O'Hollaren, commander of the Oregon Air National Guard. "Because the 142nd Fighter Wing has performed so magnificently for so long in all arenas, we may be lulled into a sense that all of this is routine and mundane. Yesterday's event confirms that it is not."

Skies were mostly clear with some high clouds when the accident occurred about 1:35 p.m.

The Guard said an Air Force Safety Board would investigate the crash. O'Hollaren pledged that it would "leave no unanswered question on the table."

Mazzia said the fighter wing has suspended F-15 flights for the rest of the week so that the unit can grieve and focus on the investigation. Most of the unit's more than 30 pilots are commercial airline pilots, she said.

Flags drooped at half-staff on the base Wednesday. A memorial service will be set later.

She said it was the first time the wing had lost an F-15, which it started flying in 1989.

She said the wing lost an F-4 that same year and had lost F-101s but did not know when.

Oregon State University spokesman Todd Simmons said Young graduated in 1996 with a degree in civil engineering and a minor in aerospace studies.

In 1996 he was a cadet in OSU's Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps and was one of 46 picked to take part in a 55-week Euro-NATO joint jet pilot training program.

No comments: