Two airmen died Thursday in an “aircraft mishap” involving a pair of training jets at Vance Air Force Base in northern Oklahoma.
“Two Vance Air Force Base Airmen were killed in an aircraft mishap at approximately 9:10 a.m. today,” Vance Air Force Base said in a statement.
“At the time of the accident, the aircraft were performing a training mission.”
— Vance AFB (@71FTW) November 21, 2019
Each of the aircraft had two crew members aboard at the time of the mishap, according to KWTV-DT’s Lacie Lowry.
‼️JET INCIDENT‼️ Vance Air Force Base in Enid says there are injuries following an “aircraft mishap.” Two Air Force T-38 Talons were training with two people onboard each aircraft when it happened at 9am. Vance AFB emergency responders are “assisting in recovery efforts.” @NEWS9 pic.twitter.com/E6IsHiVlIt
— Lacie Lowry (@LacieLowry) November 21, 2019
Air Force Col. Corey Simmons, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance, told reporters at a news conference Thursday afternoon that the incident occurred during the landing phase of the mission.
“We are a close-knit family,” Simmons said, choking up. “And when tragedies like this occur, every member of the U.S. armed forces, Vance, Enid, [Oklahoma], feels it.”
The colonel confirmed the two deceased airmen were in one of the two aircraft.
Simmons could not say what the cause of the accident was, but the Air Force will be investigating it.
Fox News reported that the T-38 is the primary jet trainer for Air Force pilots.
The aircraft is used to train future F-16, F-15, F-22, F-35 and bomber pilots, according to the news outlet.
According to CNN, T-38s have served as the Air Force’s fighter pilot trainer since 1961.
Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the news.
“Our servicemen and women give everything, even their lives, to protect our nation. I am deeply saddened by the deaths of two Airmen at Vance Air Force Base during a training session,” he said in a statement.
“I pray for God’s grace and healing as their families walk through this and to all those they serve with as they try to understand the difficult loss of their friend and coworker,” Lankford added.
Lankford’s Republican colleague and fellow Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, contended that the accident highlights the importance of adequately funding flight training and aircraft maintenance, which he said has not happened for most of the last several years.
“Over the last decade, more active-duty service members died as a result of training-related incidents than in combat operations,” Inhofe said in a statement.
“While training-related casualties are down this year, even a single instance is too many. We’ve known this is a problem that can’t be solved in a year, and more must be done.”
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