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Air Force identifies 3 airmen killed in New Mexico training crash

March 16, 2017 (Photo Credit: KFDA-TV via AP)
The Air Force has identified three special operations airmen who were killed Tuesday night when their U-28A crashed during a training sortie, officials announced Thursday. 

Capt. Andrew Becker, Capt. Kenneth Dalga and 1st Lt. Frederick Dellecker were assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

 Kenneth Dalga
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows Capt. Kenneth Dalga, from Goldsboro, N.C. Dalga was one of three service members killed Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the crash of a reconnaissance and surveillance plane during a training flight in eastern New Mexico.
Photo Credit: U.S Air Force via AP

Becker, 33, was a pilot for the squadron. He was from Novi, Michigan, and is survived by his spouse and parents, according to an Air Force news release.

Dalga, 29, was a combat systems officer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is survived by his spouse, son and mother.

Dellecker, 26, was a co-pilot from Daytona Beach, Florida. He is survived by his parents.

The remains were taken to Albuquerque for an autopsy, the release said.

Capt. Andrew Becker
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows Capt. Andrew Becker from Novi, Mich. Becker was one of three service members killed Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the crash of a reconnaissance and surveillance plane during a training flight in eastern New Mexico.
Photo Credit: U.S Air Force via AP

The incident happened at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday about a quarter mile east of Clovis Municipal Airport in New Mexico. Local first responders reacted to the incident and put out a fire that started as a result of the crash, Cannon Air Force Base spokesman Capt. Brandon Baccam said during a news conference Wednesday morning. 

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of those involved in this tragic accident,” said Col. Ben Maitre, commander of the 27th Special Operations Wing, in the release. “In doing so, our focus is to also support our larger Air Commando community as we prioritize safe mission accomplishment in both our training and operational commitments.”

Baccam said the base ceased all flying operations Tuesday night and resumed them Wednesday morning for all but the 318th Special Operations Squadron. 

The U-28 training sorties involve anything from tactical scenarios to pilot proficiency training, and Clovis Municipal Airport is part of that training, he said.

Frederick Dellecker
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows Frederick Dellecker from Daytona Beach, Fla. Dellecker, a first lieutenant, was one of three service members killed Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the crash of a reconnaissance and surveillance plane during a training flight in eastern New Mexico.
Photo Credit: U.S Air Force via AP

According to NBC station KOB, the airport director said the plane was performing "touch-and-go's" — a practice maneuver where the aircraft touches the runway but doesn't come to a complete stop and takes off again. The Air Force would not confirm exactly what the airmen were practicing. 

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Air Force officials did not immediately release any additional information. 

The U-28A provides a manned fixed-wing, on-call or surge capability for improved tactical airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of special operations forces, according to an Air Force fact sheet. 

The aircraft is operated by the 318th, 319th and 34th Special Operations squadrons, while training is conducted by the 5th and 19th SOS. The units are located at Hurlburt Field, Florida, and Cannon Air Force Base. 

Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.  
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