Pilot Killed When Fighter Jet Crashes in Southern Illinois
BETHALTO, Ill. (AP) _ For years, residents of this southern Illinois town watched anxiously as jets from the nearby airfield zoomed overhead. Their fears, it turns out, were justified.
A test pilot was practicing acrobatic maneuvers for an air show when his fighter jet clipped a row of trees, ripped through power lines and slammed into a garage before coming to rest in the back yard of an empty house.
Pilot Jeffrey James Crutchfield, 44, who was flying solo, was killed in Wednesday’s crash. His wife, Debbie, and three of their five children saw the crash from the St. Louis Regional Airport.
``He was very excited today to be doing what he was doing,″ daughter Beckie Crutchfield, 20, told The News Democrat of Belleville. ``He was having a really good time up there.″
Crutchfield, a Navy veteran with 2,000 hours of experience flying the FA-18 Hornets, was a test pilot for St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas Corp. The air show is in the Czech Republic next week.
Residents of the St. Louis suburb, about a mile from the airport, say pilots’ dipping, looping maneuvers have made them nervous for years.
``You always wonder if the day will come when there will be a plane in your yard,″ said JoAnn Myers, who lives a block from the crash site.
McDonnell Douglas spokesman Tom Williams said such practice runs were common in the area. And that has residents worried.
``The reason I was watching was I couldn’t believe he was doing that over all these houses. I couldn’t believe it,″ said David Sanders, who saw the plane go down while working nearby.
The jet’s maneuvers were within Federal Aviation Administration rules, McDonnell Douglas spokeswoman Barbara Anderson said. She said an FAA official saw the crash from the airport. The crash was under investigation.
The FA-18 is the Navy’s premier strike fighter. The FA-18 is also flown by the Marines and is usually based on aircraft carriers.
McDonnell Douglas sold the plane to the Navy in February and leased it back immediately for routine testing and refinement, a standard procedure with defense manufacturers, Williams said.