Kadena Clears F-15s to Resume Flights After Crash

A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle from the 67th Fighter Squadron lands on the runway Nov. 16, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Corey M. Pettis)
A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle from the 67th Fighter Squadron lands on the runway Nov. 16, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Corey M. Pettis)

Kadena Air Base in Japan will resume F-15 Eagle flights in the Pacific this week after a pilot crashed Monday morning.

Officials have cleared the fourth-generation aircraft for flight following inspections, the 18th Wing said in a release Tuesday.

"Senior, experienced pilots and maintainers have reviewed the initial facts and circumstances of the mishap and are confident that the incident does not indicate a problem with the overall safety of Kadena's F-15 fleet," the release said.

"In the last 24 hours, we've inspected all of our F-15s, and we are confident they are safe to resume training," said Col. Richard Tanner, 18th Wing vice commander.

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The base paused all F-15 flying operations following Monday's crash. The F-15C, assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron of the 18th Wing, crashed at approximately 6:26 a.m. local time. The lone pilot "successfully ejected" and was rescued by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

Officials on Tuesday said the pilot has been upgraded to "fair condition," according to a post on Kadena's Twitter page.

Safety remains a top priority following the accident, Tanner said. "We have reinforced the importance of safety and adherence to flight regulations with all of our pilots," he said. "Our mission is to defend Japan and maintain regional security. The safety of our pilots, our base population and our surrounding communities remains our top priority as we meet our alliance obligations."

The F-15 pilot was conducting a routine training flight when the crash occurred off Okinawa.

The cause of the accident is unknown. The Air Force has launched an investigation.

So far this year, the Air Force has lost six aircraft in non-combat training accidents, including an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, T-38 Talon trainer, WC-130 Hurricane Hunter, two F-16 Fighting Falcons -- one from the Thunderbirds demonstration team, and the Kadena-based F-15.

Several of the mishaps have included fatalities.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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