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Wisconsin National Guard Identifies Pilot Killed In F-16 Crash

115th Fighter Wing Is Currently Grounded

In this Feb. 24, 2019, file photo, U.S. fighter aircraft F-16 perform aerobatic maneuvers on the last day of Aero India 2019 at Yelahanka air base in Bangalore, India. Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo

The Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing has identified the pilot who died as the result of an F-16 crash Tuesday in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Air Force Capt. Durwood “Hawk” Jones was killed in the crash. The 37-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, leaves behind a wife and two children, according to a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs. He joined the Air National Guard in 2011.

Capt. Durwood
Capt. Durwood “Hawk” Jones, 37, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, pictured here with his family, died during an F-16 crash in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Dec. 8. Wisconsin National Guard (CC BY-NC-ND)

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“He is a decorated combat veteran, deploying as a part of a United States Pacific Command Theater Support Package to Japan in 2015 and to Korea in 2017,” according to the release. He deployed to Afghanistan last year, and has been awarded two medals for achievements during combat.

“The Fighter Wing and the Wisconsin National Guard are deeply saddened by this tragic loss,” said 115th Fighter Wing commander Col. Bart Van Roo. “Our dedication to duty and the training that is required of this job develops a bond that is like no other. The loss of a member like this is a very difficult thing for such a committed group of professionals.”

In a statement, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp and his wife, Renee, said losing Jones leaves a void that every member of the Wisconsin National Guard feels.

“Capt. Jones was a great pilot, leader, patriot, and combat veteran, who lost his life training to protect our state and nation. Like all Guardsmen, he was more than that. He was also a loving husband, father, son, brother, and friend,” Knapp said.

On Friday, Gov. Tony Evers ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Jones from sunrise Saturday through sunset Friday, Dec. 18.

The wing has been grounded, and there’s no timeframe for when the unit will next fly, Van Roo said.

“We are slowly and deliberately looking at all things until we determine that we’re safe to fly again,” he said.

At a Friday morning news conference in Madison, the wing shared new information about the crash and the investigation that’s underway.

The crash occurred at about 8 p.m. Tuesday in a remote area of the Hiawatha National Forest. Local first responders, the National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard immediately began an “exhaustive search” for Jones, who was the only person onboard the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Van Roo said. At the time, the wing was conducting a routine training mission.

“Our pilots and air crews regularly conduct training during both day and night scenarios to maintain their currency and proficiency in flying,” he said.

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The wing will work with the U.S. Air Force as it conducts its investigation into the crash, he said. It’s a three-phase process, which will examine “pre-flight activities, maintenance, aircraft integrity, pilot briefings and training,” he said.

“Safety here at the 115th continues to be our top priority,” he said.

During the initial phase, investigators will aim to gather and preserve information, and it will take about one week, Van Roo said. Next, a site investigation board will spend about one month identifying what exactly occurred. Finally, an accident investigation board will determine the cause of the crash. The last phase could take longer than a year, he said.

Van Roo couldn’t share many specific details about the crash, including whether Jones was able to eject from the plane, to “protect the integrity of that investigation,” he said. He thanked the residents of Madison and the state of Wisconsin for their messages of kindness following the crash.