The F/A 18 Hornet that crashed Friday in a Virginia neighborhood experienced “catastrophic engine failure” shorly after takeoff, a Navy official said.
Capt. Mark Weisgerber said the two-man crew had just started a training flight from Naval Air Station Oceana when the trouble developed. The problem triggered what he called the forced evacuation of the crew: a student pilot sitting in the front, and his trainer in the back. The two men have been hospitalized.
It’s too soon to draw firm conclusions about the cause of the crash in Virginia Beach, but Weisgerber said there was no indication the fighter jet had struck a bird. “All we know is there was a mechanical malfunction shortly after takeoff,” he said in a televised news conference Friday afternoon.
Weisgerber was asked about eyewitnesses who reported seeing fuel spewing from the plane before it went down, and whether the fuel had been released intentionally. He said it appears the fuel release might have been connected to a malfunction but stressed that the investigation was in the early stages.