2 pilots, one US, one Japanese, killed in training flight crash in Alabama

Two pilots died when a training aircraft crashed outside Montgomery, Alabama on Friday evening, Air Force officials say.

The cause of the plane crash is not immediately clear.

A U.S. Air Force instructor pilot, 25, and a pilot from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, 24, were on a training flight from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi to Tallahassee, Florida when their T-38 trainer jet crashed near Danley Field in Alabama, according to Col. Seth Graham, commander of the 14th Flying Training Wing.

Both pilots were lieutenants. Graham declined to release their names, but said that next of kin have been notified.

“It is with a heavy heart that I express my condolences. I know that I speak for the entire 14th Flying Training Wing that we are grieving this loss right along with you,” Graham said in a Facebook Live video. “We here are a close-knit team and the loss of two of our teammates is something that affects us all.”

All flying operations out of Columbus Air Force Base have been suspended for the foreseeable future. Flights may resume in a few days, Graham said.

Officials have initiated an interim safety board to preserve information and collect data. A flag officer-led board to investigate and compile a report on the incident is still being selected, according to Graham.

Clockwise from left: Chief Warrant Officer 3 George “Geoff” Laubhan, 39; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Peltzer, 43; and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jesse Anderson, 43. (Idaho National Guard)

Graham estimated that the final report may take 30 to 60 days to compile but ultimately depends on the complexity of the crash.

Marshall Taggart, executive director of the Montgomery Regional Airport, told news outlets that the aircraft crashed in a wooded area near the airport. News outlets showed a number of police cars and fire trucks at the scene.

The Columbus Air Force Base is home of the 14th Flying Training Wing of Air Education and Training Command’s 19th Air Force. According to the base website, the 14th FTW mission statement is “Cultivate Airmen, Create Pilots, Connect.”

The wing’s mission is specialized undergraduate pilot training.

Evening flying missions are not unusual for Columbus pilots, the colonel said, and this was one of a few training missions going off station on Friday.

This story contains information from the Associated Press. This is a developing story. Stay with Air Force Times for updates.

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