ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - An extensive ground search was under way on Friday for the missing pilot of a stealth fighter jet that crashed in a remote area of Alaska earlier this week during a nighttime training mission.
The pilot, identified as Air Force Capt. Jeffrey Haney, has not been heard from since his Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor disappeared from radar as the aircraft and another jet were heading back to base at about 7:40 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
The wreckage of Haney’s jet was spotted by search and rescue teams from the air on Wednesday in an area about 100 miles north of Anchorage.
Officials from the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardon, where Haney was based, said they did not know whether he was able to eject from the aircraft. They said that if he did, he has training and equipment suited to Alaska winter conditions.
“What we’re looking for now is the pilot,” Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Jackson, director of the emergency operations center at the base, said in a statement.
“We want to know ... is the ejector seat in the crash or is he is out in the area somewhere? Once we determine that, then we’ll begin securing the aircraft crash site and ensuring it’s safe,” Jackson said.
Search teams were focusing on an area east of Cantwell, a community on the eastern border of Denali National Park, base officials said, but conditions there were said to be challenging.
“The training area where the F-22 crashed is larger than the state of Vermont,” said Air Force Colonel Jack McMullen, commander of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf.
“It’s remote, with no maintained roads in the winter and the terrain is very rugged. All these factors complicate the process even in good weather,” he said. “When you factor in subzero temperatures and the potential for heavy snowfall, you see this is truly a massive undertaking.”
The Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine fighter equipped with stealth technology.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jonathan Oatis