Madison's F-16s flying again after fatal crash; investigation continues

By CHRIS HUBBUCH | The Wisconsin State Journal | Published: December 24, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (Tribune News Service) — Madison's Air National Guard unit is airborne again after the fatal crash of an F-16 fighter jet during a training exercise over Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Capt. Leslie Westmont said pilots resumed flying on Dec. 15.

The National Guard grounded its pilots after the Dec. 8 crash that killed Capt. Durwood "Hawk" Jones, a 37-year-old combat veteran from New Mexico assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing.

Westmont said she could not provide information on an ongoing Air Force investigation into the crash. Unit commander Col. Bart Van Roo has said it could take a month to determine exactly what happened and more than a year to determine why.

Van Roo said after the crash that the unit, which supports the Air Force's national defense mission, would be grounded until leaders determine it is safe to fly again.

The crash, which happened over a remote section of Michigan's Hiawatha National Forest, was the unit's third involving an F-16 over the past 25 years.

The pilots involved in the previous two crashes survived.

In April, the Air Force named Truax as one of two bases to host fleets of new F-35 fighter planes to replace its 33-year-old F-16s starting in 2023.

Established in 1948, the 115th Fighter Wing has about 1,200 members, including 500 full-time airmen, who serve dual federal and state missions.

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