NAS WHITING FIELD – An investigation is continuing into the Friday evening crash of a U.S. Navy T-6B Texan II turboprop training aircraft from Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton in Magnolia Springs, Alabama, that killed both crew members on board.
Magnolia Springs is located on U.S. Highway 98 about 50 miles southwest of Whiting Field, just west of Foley, Alabama, between the towns of Fairhope and Gulf Shores.
The plane crashed about 5 p.m. on Mansion Street in a residential area near an elementary school. According to an unconfirmed report from Air Force Forum, a military news page on Facebook, the plane went into a tailspin before it crashed.
The crash set a house ablaze, but there were no casualties on the ground, according to both the Navy and the Baldwin County, Alabama, Sheriff's Office. News video and still images from the scene showed roofs of many houses in the neighborhood still covered with blue tarpaulins in an ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sally.
The names of the two air crew members were not immediately available Saturday. On Friday night, the office of the commander of U.S. Naval Air Forces posted on Facebook that the names "will not be released until 24 hours after the next-of-kin notification," a standard policy in connection with military deaths among the U.S. armed services.
Whiting Field is a primary initial flight training location for the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force and U.S. allied nations. It is the home of Training Air Wing Five, comprised of three primary fixed-wing training squadrons and three advanced helicopter squadrons.
On Friday evening, the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office was deferring further comment on the crash to military authorities. A Friday evening telephone call to the Sheriff's Office from the Daily News had not been returned as of Saturday afternoon.
"DOD (Department of Defense) and Navy personnel will be handling the investigation and will provide further updates," the Sheriff's Office said via its Twitter account.
Navy personnel were on scene shortly after the crash, according to U.S. Naval Air Forces.
The office of the Chief of Naval Air Training issued a brief statement on the crash Friday via Facebook: "It is with a heavy heart that we mourn two of our pilots who lost their lives during an aircraft crash in Alabama today. Our deepest sympathy goes to their family and friends at this difficult time. Rest in peace, Shipmates. We have the watch."
The crash came less than a week after the Navy and Marine Corps were celebrating that both services had closed out the just-completed fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, "without a single aviation-related fatality in either service," according to an Oct. 19 news release from the Naval Safety Service.
Recordkeeping on Navy aviation mishaps began in 1922, "meaning this is the first time in nearly a century and most likely the first time ever, that the services achieved this milestone," according to the release.
Capt. Scott Kramarik, director of aviation safety programs, acknowledged that a 10% reduction in flight hours due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might have contributed to the milestone achieved during the previous fiscal year.
But Kramarik also credited "years of training, proficiency and adopting a good safety culture" for contributing to the milestone.
This article is written by Jim Thompson from Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.