A pilot and his flight instructor were able to safely eject from a crippled Navy McDonnell Douglas F/A-18D Hornet flying a training mission from NAS Oceana on Friday, April 6, 2012 at 12:10 p.m. EDT while the high performance aircraft crashed and burned into the Mayfair Mews Apartments near Birdneck Road and Fleming Circle in Virginia Beach, VA, just miles from the flight line, according to reports published yesterday by the Aviation Safety Network, the Daily Mail, The Associated Press, and other media.
The resulting fire, ignited by high octane aviation fuel from the burning wreckage set ablaze three buildings and destroyed more than 40 apartment units, many occupied by seniors who resided at the complex, as seen in the attached slide show and video clip.
Two more apartment buildings have significant damage, according to Virginia Beach fire department spokesman Tim Riley.
Six persons were removed to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, including the two naval airmen. All have been discharged except the pilot, and are expected to make a full recovery.
There were no known fatalities from the dramatic crash and resulting fire which followed it, after the aircraft developed severe mechanical failure during takeoff from the military base, and none of the residents of the apartment complex are missing.
As people rushed to assist the downed flight crew, whose heavy ejection seats landed about 100 yards from the burning aircraft, the dazed pilot was heard to apologize to homeowners for crashing into their buildings.
ABC World News had reported that the U.S. Navy had long considered relocating the base away from the densely populated residential area.
Though strong supporters of the military, some residents of the Virginia Beach community commented that this was an accident waiting to happen, based on the high number of flight operations conducted each day.
Virginia Beach is the most populous city in the state of Virginia, as well as the 39th largest city in the United States, with a population of 437,994 according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Naval Air Station Oceana, IATA code NTU, is a United States Navy Master Jet Base, and home to seventeen strike fighter squadrons of F/A-18 Hornets and F/A-18 Super Hornets, and additional specialized squadrons and air wing commands which support other East Coast naval operations.
Plans for an outlying landing field supporting both NAS Oceana and MCAS Cherry Point in eastern North Carolina, which were initiated in 2006, met with strong opposition from local residents and environmentalists. There were concerns over the ecological impacts of the field, along with noise issues voiced by residents, causing the project to be killed.
The accident brought back memories of the December 8, 2008 crash of an F/A-18 Hornet into a home in University City, a suburb of San Diego, California, while returning to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, in which four persons were killed, including two children.
In that accident, surviving family member Don Yoon, who lost his wife, two baby daughters, and their grandmother, was seeking $56 million dollars in compensation from the government.
On 28 December 2011, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller awarded Yoon, his father-in-law, and mother-in-law’s three adult children a total of $17.8 million in damage compensation. The U.S. government appealed that award, and an appellate decision is still pending.
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets. McDonnell Douglas merged with The Boeing Company in 1997.
The aircraft was first introduced on January 7, 1983, and a total of 1,480 planes in various models have been built at a unit cost ranging from $29 million to $57 million dollars. It has a maximum speed of 1,190 mph, a range of 1,250 miles, a combat radius of 460 miles, a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, and a rate of climb of 50,000 feet/minute.
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