Search resumes in Virginia for pilot of crashed U.S. fighter plane

By Ian Simpson

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - Search resumed on Thursday for the pilot of a Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15C fighter that crashed in mountainous western Virginia, officials said.

The plane went down on Wednesday in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Washington, sending up a thick plume of smoke.

More than 100 police and rescue personnel searched the rugged area on Wednesday, backed by helicopters and other aircraft, Massachusetts' Barnes Air National Guard Base said in a statement.

A report by a witness of seeing a parachute before the crash proved to be unfounded, it said.

The single-seat, twin-engine plane was part of the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, stationed at the Barnes base in Westfield, Massachusetts.

The airplane was being flown to New Orleans to receive a system upgrade and was not carrying munitions, the statement said.

The pilot, who has not been identified, reported an inflight emergency shortly before contact was lost with the Washington flight controller.

The F-15 is 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; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)