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Virginia fighter jet being flown by 'student pilot' - report

There are also witness reports suggesting the pilot deliberately shed fuel in order to minimise the impact of any crash.
Apr 7th 2012, 4:04 PM 5,225 10

WHEN AN F-18 crashed into a Virginia Beach neighborhood yesterday, little was known about the pilot or the circumstances that brought the plane down.

While not much has changed, Zinie Sampson at the Associated Press reports the F/A-18D jet was a trainer manned by a student pilot with an experienced instructor behind him.

The pair faced tough choices when the F-18 malfunctioned immediately after takeoff over over a highly populated area.

“Catastrophic engine system failure right after takeoff, which is always the most critical phase of flying, leaves very, very few options,” aviation safety expert and decorated pilot J.F. Joseph told Sampson. “You literally run out of altitude, air speed and ideas all at the same time.”

The F-18 carries 8,000 pounds of jet fuel and witnesses report most of it seemed to pour from the plane as it went down.

Officials are unsure if that was part of the malfunction, or if the pilots dumped the fuel to minimize the explosion they knew would ensue once the plane hit the ground.

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Capt. Mark Weisgerber with US Fleet Forces Command says he did not know how many flights the student pilot had taken, but the instructor was “extremely experienced.”

- Robert Johnson

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