Body found at F-16 crash site in Az, Taiwanese pilot presumed dead
An F-16 fighter jet based at Luke AFB in Glendale crashed Thursday morning near Bagdad, Ariz., west of Prescott. A body was later found at the crash site, and the student pilot from the Taiwanese air force was presumed to have been killed, U.S. Air Force officials said.
It took hours Thursday to locate the spot where the plane went down, in the hills about about five miles south of the mining town of Bagdad, about 20 miles west of Prescott. Friday morning, officials said human remains had been found at the crash.
"This evidence leads me to believe the pilot did not survive the crash and is therefore presumed dead," said Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, commander of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke.
The Air Force has moved from a search and rescue to a recovery operation, he said. A coroner is conducting tests on the remains.
The pilot was not identified, but Air Force officials confirmed the Taiwanese air force trainee was the sole occupant of the aircraft. An instructor was flying another F-16 nearby, officials said, as the pilot who crashed was involved in air-to-air combat training.
Thursday, although the pilot's body had not yet been located, "all indications lead me to believe the pilot did not survive," said Pleus. "Our thoughts and focus continue to be on the family and giving them our full support during this difficult time," Pleus said Friday.
U.S. and foreign pilots train at the Phoenix-area base, flying F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Among the squadrons in the 56th Fighter Wing is one that trains pilots of the Taiwanese Air Force, the 21st Fighter Squadron.
The cause of the crash, which happened around 8:45 a.m. Thursday, wasn't yet known, officials said. A Yavapai County Sheriff's Office helicopter located the crash site Thursday afternoon after hunters pointed authorities to a plume a smoke; the plane went down about five miles south of Bagdad, in hilly terrain about a mile off S.R. 97.
In late November, an F-16 from Holloman Air Force Base, near Alamogordo, crashed in New Mexico, but the pilot ejected safely in that incident. That F-16 belongs to a unit detached from Luke.
Last June, an F-16 flown by an Iraqi pilot training with the Arizona Air National Guard out of Tucson crashed north of Douglas. The pilot was killed in that incident.