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Special Event

Pentagon Official Briefs on Search For U.S. Fighter Jet in Scottish Highlands

Aired March 27, 2001 - 1:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to take you now to the Pentagon. They're taking questions on the search for U.S. fighter jet in the Scottish Highlands. He's now telling reporters that one of those F-15s, as we reported, has been located, along with the body of the pilot.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REAR ADMIRAL CRAIG QUIGLEY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: ...aircraft and pilot have not yet been found and are listed as "whereabouts unknown" at this point. The search continues.

Efforts were launched by the UK Ministry of Defense from RAF Kinloss in Scotland, and they had the lead on the search and research efforts. This involves approximately 200 Royal Air Force rescue personnel, police, civilian volunteers and three different types of aircraft for air searches.

QUIGLEY: The rescue effort is severely hampered by terrible weather in the area where we continue to look. Snow, 50-mile-an-hour winds, very rugged topography with the snow and the wind. There are whiteout conditions there and the weather forecast, unfortunately, predicts that those sorts of conditions will remain there for the next 24 to 48 hours.

Our sincere appreciation goes out to the Royal Air Force search and rescue folks who have helped us get this far. And when it is safe to continue the search, they'll continue to do so.

QUESTION: What was the weather like yesterday at the time of the crash?

QUIGLEY: The weather was good yesterday, but a front came in overnight, I think, and today it's awful.

QUESTION: So there is no searching?

QUIGLEY: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: No searching today, because of the whiteout?

QUIGLEY: No. Actually, the wreckage was spotted early today and it's a front that has moved in as the day progressed. But it didn't start off terrible today, but it is now the conditions that I described. So they were able to find the single crash site and get there to the point where they have recovered the remains of one of the pilots. We don't know which it is yet. They just have not been identified.

QUESTION: Will they able to do that work today, though, to get to the crash site?

QUIGLEY: I don't think so, because not only is it 7:30 in the evening there, but you're also considerably north, and you've got your daylight hours shortened, anyway, by your northern position. So I think it's pretty well dark. And with the whiteout and the weather conditions, I think they've called it quits for today.

QUESTION: Can you define good for yesterday? What was the ceiling and visibility? And what were they doing? There's some conflict here. Air Force is now saying low-level training, but as we were saying here, the C model would not normally do that kind of training, because that particular model of the 15 is used for cap or high altitude flying.

QUIGLEY: I don't have the specifics for the first part of your question. I mean, other than having the weather described yesterday as being good, with a clear air mass, but I don't ceilings and wind velocity and things of that sort. But it was described as good.

But the F-15C single-seater principal mission is indeed air-to- air, but it also has an air-to-ground mission. And the training that they were on was to use a Scottish range for low-level training.

So they took off from Lakenheath. Just for a quick time line, the two aircraft took off from Lakenheath at about 12:30 in the afternoon, local time. And at 1:15, the RAF base in Scotland reported that they had lost radar contact. So that's 45 minutes after take off from Lakenheath.

Now the planes were due back at about 2:20 local time, for about a two-hour training hop. And then about an hour later, at 3:30, then they formally declared the aircraft overdue and started the search procedures at that point.

QUESTION: Do you know what kind of ordnance, if any? Was this a live-fire training exercise?

QUIGLEY: No, there was no live ordnance on board, but each aircraft carried a single captive-carry Sidewinder, air-to-air, short- range, infrared homing -- this is no warhead, no rocket booster, but the seeker is functional and it allows the pilot to practice engagements and get a very good feel for realism, but without a rocket motor or warhead. And that was the only ordnance on each of the planes.

QUESTION: Were they playing opposition to each other? Or were they playing wingman? Do you know what they were doing?

QUIGLEY: I don't have those details. QUESTION: How were they using the Scottish range, then?

QUIGLEY: That is a low-level range, low-level training. And why they particularly had one practice air-to-air missile on their wings, I don't know that yet.

QUESTION: And they had no other ordnance?

QUIGLEY: No air-to-ground type of ordnance, no.

QUESTION: You said they have recovered remains. Did you mean that? Have they actually recovered remains now?

QUIGLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: So was it the British search and rescue team that landed? Do we know who landed?

QUIGLEY: Yes, it was.

QUESTION: And the remains have actually been brought down off of the mountain?

QUIGLEY: That is my understanding.

QUESTION: When you said, recovered...

QUIGLEY: That is my understanding, yes that they've been brought down. Now where they are right now, I do not know where the remains are.

QUESTION: Another...

QUIGLEY: Any other F-15?

QUESTION: Well, no, but you said the package. Can you refer to the Army/German crash? Anything else we know about that?

QUIGLEY: No, nothing more. As of today, it was about eight miles on a final approach into the field. Two people, two crew members on board, both warrant officers, both were killed in the accident. But the Army has just started the accident investigation there.

QUESTION: What was the weather there?

QUIGLEY: I don't have that.

QUESTION: Is there a...

QUIGLEY: In the video that I have seen, it looks to be fairly decent. I saw the smoke coming up from the crash site.

QUESTION: Is there any concern in the building about what appears to be just rash of accidents of all different types? And is Rumsfeld considering doing anything other than just watching it happen?

QUIGLEY: Well, you're always terribly affected by the loss of life in any sort of an aircraft accident. But you have such a disparity of types of aircraft here, different parts of the world doing different missions under different circumstances, it's hard to...

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to break away from the Pentagon briefing now and take you to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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