Fighter pilot in crash flew on 9/11
The 43-year-old Hawaii Air National Guard pilot whose F-15D jet crashed 60 miles of Oahu Friday was one of four fighter pilots who scrambled to protect island skies following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Air Force identified the pilot as Lt. Col. Christopher "Frenchy" Faurot, who has been flying with the guard since 1991.
Faurot was unavailable for comment on the crash. He ejected safely at about 1:37 Friday afternoon, said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state adjutant general. On Friday, Lee said the pilot said he could not control the plane and started to lose altitude before the crash. The plane experienced no problems during an earlier routine exercise that day.
The jet had been returned to service three weeks ago after undergoing safety inspections. Faurot was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and flown to the Queen's Medical Center. He was home by Saturday.
He is a member of the 199th Fighter Squadron, which maintains the Air Guard's aging 20 F-15s. The guard is due to get the new F-22 raptors by 2010. Faurot manages the Guard's F-22 transition program.
Faurot, a 1984 Damien Memorial School graduate, was in the air minutes after terrorists crashed hijacked commercial jet planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.
"We knew what had happened," Faurot told the Star-Bulletin a few weeks after the incident, "It had occurred before 3 in the morning here. I had seen it on television.
"We were all briefed before we went up at 11 a.m.," added Faurot, who has flown since 1991, after graduating from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
"We had been briefed that a commercial airline had the potential of being used as a weapon. We knew that it might have to be neutralized."
The 199th is the only Air Force unit with the mission to patrol Hawaii's skies. It has jets on 24-hour alert status.
Friday's crash was the fifth involving the Air Force's aging F-15 fleet, which was designed during the Vietnam War. It was the first involving the Hawaii unit, which has been flying F-15s since 1987.
Thirteen of the Hawaii Guard's F-15s had been cleared to fly on Jan. 9. The Air Force had grounded all of its 676 F-15s after a Missouri Air National Guard jet crashed on Nov. 2.
The Missouri Guard F-15 broke apart in midair, injuring the pilot. The cause was structural problems with the plane.
An interim safety investigative board was convened following Friday's crash and pending the outcome of its probe the remaining F-15 jets flown by the Hawaii Air Guard will not fly any training missions.
However, the 199th will maintain two jets on "alert status" to fulfill the unit's air defense mission, said a National Guard spokesman.