The US Air Force has refused to disclose what type of aircraft Lt. Col. Erin Schultz was flying last Tuesday when the pilot crashed and died.
Schultz held a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Caltech, an MBA from Pennsylvania State University, flew on 50 close air support missions in Afghanistan, and was one of the first 30 pilots to ever fly on the beleaguered F-35 joint strike fighter, Popular Mechanics reports.
Further, the lieutenant colonel had also served as a test engineer at the Naval Air Warfare Center. So how exactly did such an experience and brilliant pilot die during a training run over one of the US Air Force’s most commonly used test ranges?
Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said over the weekend “I can definitely say it was not an F-35,” however the official USAF statement sent to Military.com states “information about the type of aircraft involved is classified and not releasable.”
The incident occurred last Tuesday evening during a training mission roughly 100 miles north of Nellis Air Force Base Nevada, according to a USAF spokesperson. The aircraft was assigned to Air Force Materiel Command.
A military source tells Aviation week Schultz was involved in a squadron that regularly “tests and evaluates” foreign jets.
The service seems to be focusing its sights on one air force in particular: the Russian Air Force. “It could be an Su-27 or possibly even the newer Su-30 multirole fighter,” Popular Mechanics reported, noting that US allies like Vietnam and Indonesia have purchased several of the twin-engine Su-30s. The US Air Force might be interested in testing these planes since air-to-air encounters between Russian and US planes in places like Syria “have become more common,” the news outlet reported.