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Investigation underway into fatal Navy jet crash

Getting the truth is crucial.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — After tragedy struck the close-knit naval aviation community, investigators are trying to piece together what happened.

The two-member aircrew from an Oceana-based Super Hornet were killed Wednesday, following a mishap off Key West, Florida. The pilot and weapons systems officer were recovered and transferred to a nearby hospital. About five hours later, the Navy put out a news released which stated that they had died.

Retired vice admiral John Mazach told 13News Now that the investigation of the F/A-18 F Super Hornet from VFA-213 will be thorough.

Mazach is a former Hornet pilot and commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic. He said it is critical to learning everything possible from this, and every aviation mishap.

“There’s value in doing it every time,” he said. “Some days it’s just not going to be your day. Doesn’t matter how professional you are. Doesn’t matter how good you are on the airplane. It might not be your day in the airplane, and the airplane may fail for some reason.”

Some probes can take four to six months to complete. Naval Air Force Atlantic said in a release that a Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) will conduct the investigation. The release said the MIB consists of high qualified Naval officers with extensive experience in all aspects of aviation. The release continued: “The MIB thoroughly examines previous aircraft maintenance, number of hours flown on the aircraft, physical condition of the aircrew and their activities previous to the accident.”

Overall, the modern naval aviation safety record is very good, especially compared to the 1950’s and 60’s.

As far as the Hornet, the Naval Safety Center said the last aviator mishap death was in 2016, involving a Marine flying an F/A-18-C with the Blue Angels.

Locally, the last aviation fatality was in 2014, when three aircrewmen died in an MH-53 E Sea Dragon helicopter crash in the Atlantic.

Mazach said in those and all cases, getting to the truth is crucial.

“Because the idea is to get to this many accidents per flight hour,” he said, making a hand gesture showing the numeral zero.

The Navy said Thursday that VFA-213 is scheduled to complete its training in Key West on March 21st and return to Oceana