(Adds police, National Guard comment, byline)
By Ian Simpson
Aug 27 A Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15C
fighter crashed in mountainous western Virginia on Wednesday and
the fate of the pilot was unknown, officials said.
The fighter plane went down shortly after 9 a.m. EDT (1300
GMT) in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Washington, sending up a
thick plume of smoke, a spokeswoman for the Augusta County
Sheriff's Office said.
"We have not located the wreckage or the pilot," she said.
State and local police are trying to reach the crash site in
mountainous terrain lacking cell phone coverage. There were no
injuries on the ground, she said.
The single-seat plane was part of the 104th Fighter Wing of
the Massachusetts Air National Guard, stationed at the Barnes
Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts.
Senior Master Sergeant Rob Sabonis, a wing spokesman, said
the plane was on a cross-country flight for a system upgrade and
was not carrying munitions.
The pilot reported an "inflight emergency" shortly before
the base lost radio contact, he said. The pilot was not
Colonel James Keefe, the wing's commander, said in a
statement: "We are not going to speculate on what occurred or
the status of the pilot. We are hopeful that the pilot is OK,
and the pilot will be in our thoughts and prayers as the events
of this incident unfold."
The F-15 is a twin-engine fighter designed by McDonnell
Douglas, a unit of Boeing Co. It has been in U.S. service
since the 1970s.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Additional reporting
by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Editing by
Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham)