The pilot of a Wisconsin Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon that crashed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Tuesday night has been declared dead.
The Air Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, to which the aircraft was assigned, announced the sad news Thursday on its Facebook page, but said the pilot’s identity will not be released until 24 hours after family members are notified.
The Fighting Falcon, out of Truax Field in Madison, Wisconsin, crashed at about 8 p.m. Tuesday within Michigan’s remote Hiawatha National Forest during a routine training mission, according to the Facebook message.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss; our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time,” 115th Fighter Wing commander Col. Bart Van Roo said. “Today is a day for mourning, the 115th Fighter Wing and the entire Wisconsin National Guard stands with the pilot’s family as we grieve the loss of a great Airman, and patriot.”
“We are an extremely close knit group at the fighter wing, the loss of one of our own brings immeasurable sadness to every member of our organization,” he said.
A multi-state, interagency search for the pilot and aircraft, which included search-and-rescue efforts on the ground, in the air and in the water by the 115th FW, local emergency responders, the U.S. Coast Guard and other government agencies immediately followed the crash, officials said. The cause is under investigation.
The crash site in Delta County, Michigan, was initially secured by local emergency responders until safety and security personnel from the 115th arrived.
The Hiawatha National Forest, about 250 miles northeast of the base, spans about 879,000 acres, according to the forest’s website. Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald said the crash occurred in “a very remote area with no cellphone service.”
The Air Force announced in April that Truax will receive a fleet of 18 new F-35 fighter planes to replace its 21 aging F-16s in 2023.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.