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Investigation continues into NAS Whiting T-6B Texan II crash that killed 2 in Alabama

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

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.

On Saturday, the Navy was asking anyone who has video or photos of the crash, or who sees or has seen any debris that may have come from the aircraft, to call (864) 608-0729. The Navy is asking anyone who spots what they think might be debris from the aircraft not to touch it.

The Navy is working with local authorities to investigate the crash, according to a brief Saturday evening news release from the office of the commander of Naval Air Forces. 

More:NAS Whiting Field receives final T-6B Texan II training aircraft

The plane crashed about 5 p.m. Friday on Mansion Street in a Magnolia Springs 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 aircraft had taken off earlier in the day on what the Saturday news release from Naval Air Forces called "a routine training flight." 

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.

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The names of the two air crew members had not been released as of Saturday afternoon, although the Associated Press reported that the Navy said the plane carried an instructor and student aviator. 

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.

A T-6B Texan II aircraft taxis at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton. A T-6B Texan from NAS Whiting crashed early Friday evening in Magnolia Springs, Alabama, a small town west of Foley. Both air crew members aboard were killed, according to the Navy. A house was set ablaze as a result of the crash, but no one on the ground was injured, according to local authorities.

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.

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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.

More:PHOTOS: NAS Whiting Field turns 73 years old

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.

A pair T-6B Texan II aircraft arrive at NAS Whiting Field in 2016.

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.