By Rene Lynch A search for victims is underway in Virginia Beach, Va., where a Navy jet slammed into a residential area. At least five people reportedly have been taken to a hospital with injuries, including one of two crew members who safely ejected from the aircraft.
Dozens of personnel were responding to the crash scene, including 55 emergency workers and 65 police officers, according to Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. Those forces were being bolstered by state police officers as well as other emergency workers and law enforcement officials from nearby areas. Still unclear is how many were injured. So far, no fatalities have been reported. But that can quickly change as the story unfolds. Sessoms said in a TV interview that fire authorities were bringing in foam to help tamp down toxic smoke from the crash. Once that takes place, making it safer for emergency workers to proceed, then the search for victims inside the apartment buildings would begin.
“The pilots are safe, they are OK,” Sessoms said in a TV interview. “Now we have to wait and see what happens when we get into the buildings.” The F/A-18 Hornet aircraft crashed about 12:30 p.m. EDT. Black smoke was visible over the Birdneck Road area of Virginia Beach.
George Pilkington, who lives near the crash site, told CNN that it wasnâ€™t unusual to see low-flying aircraft in the Virginia Beach area, which is studded with military installations. The plane that crashed apparentlyÂ was flying out of the Oceana Naval Air Station. Pilkington said he was driving to a gym when he noticed the F/A 18 Hornet headed the same direction.
This plane, however, was flying unusually low, the tip was pointing up and fuel was coming out, he said. Â It was clear the plane would crash.
â€œThereâ€™s nowhere he could have touched down in a safe way,â€ Pilkington told CNN in a telephone interview.
Residents in the area have told local media that the smell of fuel was overwhelming. Whether the fuel was released intentionally or as a result of a leak was unknown. Two crew members ejected from the jet.
Five buildings were heavily damaged and the search for possible victims on the ground continues. Â Televised images from the scene show what appears to be an apartment complex cleaved down the middle. Still, Pilkington said, the disaster could have been worse.
â€œThat it didnâ€™t cause more damage to surrounding apartments is definitely a blessing,â€ Pilkington told CNN.
The F/A-18 has a digital control-by-wire flight control system which provides excellent handling qualities, and allows pilots to learn to fly the airplane with relative ease. At the same time, this system provides exceptional maneuverability and allows the pilot to concentrate on operating the weapons system. A solid thrust-to-weight ratio and superior turn characteristics combined with energy sustainability, enable the F/A-18 to hold its own against any adversary. The power to maintain evasive action is what many pilots consider the Hornet’s finest trait. In addition, the F/A-18 was also the Navy’s first tactical jet aircraft to incorporate a digital, MUX bus architecture for the entire system’s avionics suite. The benefit of this design feature is that the F/A-18 has been relatively easy to upgrade on a regular, affordable basis.
The F/A-18 has proven to be an ideal component of the carrier based tactical aviation equation over its 15 years of operational experience. The only F/A-18 characteristic found to be marginally adequate by battle group commanders, outside experts, and even the men who fly the Hornet, is its range when flown on certain strike mission profiles. However, the inadequacy is managed well with organic and joint tanking assets. …
That thick black smoke reminds me of a bad dream I had featuring a fighter jet and radiation.Â The F/A-18, which has a range of about 2300 miles unloaded and 460 miles loaded with weapons, can carry a few different tactical nuclear weapons from 5 kilotons to 300 kilotons according to this page. I wouldn’t hang around that area.Â The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both under 22 kilotons each. I highly doubt this jet was armed with nukes. The likelihood is probably close to impossible with the safeguards and protocols we have in place, but it is not physically impossible.
Update, just a training mission:
The Navy confirms that “both aircrew safely ejected from the aircraft.” They add:
“VFA-106 is based at Naval Air Station Oceana, and serves as the East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron. Their mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 Replacement Pilots and Weapon Systems Officers (WSOs) to support fleet commitments.”