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Two Navy officers killed in Lemoore NAS jet crash

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  • Phelps Hobart
    I ask that you have your thoughts and prayers for the family, the friends and shipmates of these two fine Naval officers and that you remember that they
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7 12:15 PM
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      "I ask that you have your thoughts and prayers for the family, the friends and shipmates of these two fine Naval officers and that you remember that they represent the very best of this nation." Capt. James Knapp, USN, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Lemoore
       
      Base spokeswoman Melinda Larson said high-ranking officers who are in charge of Pacific fleet squadrons were visiting the victims' families.
      The jet was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 122, which trains pilots in flying both the Hornet and the Super Hornet jets. After training, pilots and weapons systems operators are assigned to squadrons deployed to aircraft carriers.
       

       
       
        
      NAS Lemoore Base Commander Captain James
      Knapp briefs the press outside the station.  


      Posted at 01:07 PM on Wednesday, Apr. 06, 2011
      By Lewis Griswold and Eddie Jimenez / The Fresno Bee
      LEMOORE -- Two Navy officers from Lemoore Naval Air Station died Wednesday when their fighter jet crashed outside the base.
      The pilot and the weapons systems operator were in a two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet jet on a routine training flight just before the crash, said base commander Capt. James Knapp.

      The names of the victims were not released pending notification of next of kin.
      The jet fighter crashed about a half-mile west of the base on private property, Knapp said. No one on the ground was injured, and there was no property damage, he said.
      The cause of the crash is under investigation, Knapp said.

      Navy officials blocked off the area of the crash, including the site where the fuselage was found.

      The jet went down at 12:08 p.m.

      An active-duty mechanic not authorized to speak on behalf of the Navy told news network CNN he witnessed the incident.

      He heard the jet flying and suddenly "it got really quiet," he said. The pilot apparently tried to bank left and pull up when the plane crashed into a field, he said. Neither officer ejected from the jet prior to the crash, he said.

      Lemoore Mayor Willard Rodarmel and lifelong Lemoore resident Tony Oliveira both said Wednesday's crash will hit their community hard.
      "We're all connected some way or another to that base," Rodarmel said. "It's a shame whenever something like this happens. Not only do the families lose loved ones, so does our country."

      Oliveira, a former and longtime Kings County supervisor for District 3, said he lives about half a mile from the air base and could see smoke billowing skyward after the crash.

      Oliveira, 64, a lifelong Lemoore resident, said he has seen firsthand the close ties between the Navy and civilians. "There is no real distinction here," he said. "It's an exceptional relationship."

      Oliveira said the tragic event will be a blow to every family in Lemoore. "This moment and this crash will be remembered in the minds of people from Lemoore forever," he said.

      Base spokeswoman Melinda Larson said high-ranking officers who are in charge of Pacific fleet squadrons were visiting the victims' families.
      The jet was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 122, which trains pilots in flying both the Hornet and the Super Hornet jets. After training, pilots and weapons systems operators are assigned to squadrons deployed to aircraft carriers.

      Knapp said that investigators from the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk, Va., will determine the cause of the crash after a month or so and will make any needed recommendations to the Navy.

      The jet that crashed was made by Boeing and is the newest version of the Super Hornet, he said. The first Super Hornet was delivered to the Navy in 1998.

      The Super Hornet is the Navy's dual-role strike fighter, serving as an air-to-air fighter and as an air-to-ground attack aircraft.
      Knapp said base officials could not immediately determine the date of the last crash of a Navy jet at the base.

      According to Bee archives, 1st Lt. Brian R. Deforge, 25, died in a midair collision between two F/A-18C Hornets on June 26, 2006. The planes had just completed an air-to-air combat training mission over Fort Hunter Liggett, north of San Luis Obispo, and were moving into close formation to return to Lemoore when they collided.

      The other pilot ejected safely.

      On March 15, 2010, two fighter jet pilots from Lemoore NAS survived when their jets collided over the northern Nevada desert.
      The crash, which took place during a training mission, happened east of Fallon Naval Air Station.

      One pilot landed his jet at the Fallon base about 15 minutes after the collision. The other pilot ejected safely before his jet crashed in a remote area of the base.
       
           
       

      Statement from press conference

      Staff reports

      Below is the text of three-minute statement made by the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Lemoore following Wednesday’s crash. He did not take questions from the press.

      Good afternoon, I’m Capt. James Knapp ... I’m the commanding officer of Naval Air Station, Lemoore, Calif.

      [At] approximately 12:08 local, Pacific Standard Time this afternoon, an F-18 foxtrot model aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 122, which is the fleet replacement squadron located at Naval Air Station Lemoore, aircraft went down, and crashed, approximately one half mile to the west of Naval Air Station Lemoore’s property line, on private property, a farm in Fresno County.

      The F-18 F model is a two-seat Strike Fighter made by Boeing aircraft company. It’s the newest Strike Fighter in the Navy’s inventory. It’s flown, again, by a crew of two, a pilot and a weapon system operator.

      The cause of the mishap is under investigation. I can say there was no damage at the crash site to civilian property or personnel.
      However, I can confirm that there were two fatalities. The pilot and the weapon system operator attached to Strike Fighter Squadron 122 perished in the mishap.

      Names will not be released until the notification of next of kin has been completed.

      The aircraft was a single-aircraft mission on a routine training flight originating from Naval Air Station Lemoore and ending at Naval Air Station Lemoore.

      Over the course of the next month, safety investigators from the Naval Safety Center and Strike Fighter Squadron 122 will conduct an investigation of the mishap site and the components that they are able to recover from the mishap crash site to determine the cause of the mishap and make recommendations to higher headquarters in the Navy on how to prevent future mishaps.

      That’s all I have at this time. I thank you very much for your patience. I ask that you have your thoughts and prayers for the family, the friends and shipmates of these two fine Naval officers and that you remember that they represent the very best of this nation. Thank you very much.


      Lemoore NAS hopes to be home to new fighter jets

      Posted at 09:19 PM on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

      By Lewis Griswold / The Fresno Bee

      LEMOORE -- A proposal to base 100 Navy F-35C Joint Strike Fighter jets -- the new generation of fighter aircraft slated to replace the aging Hornet jet fighters -- at either Lemoore Naval Air Station or the Navy base in El Centro has local officials scrambling to make the case for their base.

      The 50-year-old base is an economic mainstay in Kings County. With about 11,500 people living or working on the base, it is effectively the county's fourth largest "city." It employs 6,100 military personnel and 1,074 civilians, and contributes an estimated $1 billion to the local and regional economy, officials said.

      "Our goal is to make sure they don't choose El Centro," said Lemoore City Manager Jeff Briltz.

      If Lemoore gets passed over, the base would stay open, base commander Capt. James Knapp said Wednesday. But if the Navy bases fewer fighter jets there over time, the work force could decrease by an estimated 2,000 to 3,000, Knapp said.

      Briltz said community leaders are urging supporters to show up tonight at the Lemoore Senior Center for a "scoping session," the first local unveiling of the proposal for the general public. The session provides an opportunity for the public to identify potential environmental impacts that should be studied before the Navy decides where to put the new jet fighters.

      The environmental impact statement will take about two years to prepare and will compare the effects on noise, air quality, water use and other issues that would arise if the jets were based at Lemoore or El Centro.

      The decision about where to put the West Coast F-35C's will be made by a Navy undersecretary after the environmental report is finalized.

      The Kings County Economic Development Corporation has created Friends of Lemoore NAS, a group of community leaders and others, to lobby for Lemoore, and the Kings County Board of Supervisors this week voted to support stationing the new jets here.

      The supervisors appear to have the support of California's two senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who in 2004 wrote a letter urging the Navy to base the planes in Lemoore.

      The Navy said last month it will bring the new planes to the West Coast in 2015.

      The fighter will gradually replace the F/A-18C Hornet jet fighter, which began production in the 1970s and are aging, Knapp said.

      If the new jets go to El Centro, the Lemoore base would still have eight squadrons of F/A-18C Super Hornet jet fighters -- larger and newer than the Hornets -- that will be used for another 25 years, Knapp said.


      Naval Air Station Lemoore - Naval Air Station Lemoore or NAS Lemoore (IATA: NLC, ICAO: KNLC, FAA LID: NLC) is a United States Navy base, located in Kings County and Fresno County, California. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Air_Station_​Lemoore - Cached

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