Virginia contractor suspends flights after two crashes
A Virginia company that provides aerial training to the military has suspended flights while it investigates two recent crashes that killed two of its pilots.
Newport News-based Airborne Tactical Advantage Co., known as ATAC, temporarily halted flights operations “while we just kind of review processes and take a breath,” company spokesman Matt Bannon told The Daily Press.
One of ATAC’s Israeli-built F-21 Kfir jets crashed into a building at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., on March 6. A base spokesman in Fallon had reported snow and fog at the time.
The F21-pilot, Carroll LeFon, was a retired Navy captain, former Top Gun fighter school instructor and military blogger originally from Alexendria, according to the Navy Times.
Last Friday, a British-built Hawker Hunter jet trainer went down near Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California. The military-style aircraft, contracted to play the enemy in training exercises, took off from the base with another jet trainer and went down as it was returning.
Thomas Bennett, the pilot killed in the Californnia crash, was a former Navy pilot who retired as the captain of an aircraft carrier after a 28-year military career, his son Ryan Bennett told the Ventura County Star.
“No words can express the utter and complete shock the company is in, losing two pilots in less than 100 days in completely un-related accidents, in different aircraft, in different weather conditions and in different locations,” ATAC CEO Jeff Parker said in a statement.
Federal authorities also are investigating the crashes. AP
U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 1,851
As of May 22, 2012, at least 1,851 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.
At least 1,539 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.
Outside of Afghanistan, the department reports at least 111 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, 12 were the result of hostile action.
The AP count of total OEF casualties outside of Afghanistan is two more than the department’s tally.
The Defense Department also counts three military civilian deaths.
Since the start of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, 15,950 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department. AP