A memorial is planned Monday for the pilot who died when his F-22 Raptor crashed in a valley between two mountains after vanishing from radar on a nighttime training flight last week, military officials said Saturday.
The announcement came as hundreds of Army and Air Force personnel continued Saturday to comb the crash area off the Denali Highway in Interior Alaska to find Capt. Jeffrey Haney's remains, recover pieces of the stealth fighter jet and try to find out why it went down.
At the family's request, only personnel from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and some friends from the local community will attend the memorial, scheduled for 3:25 p.m. at Hangar One on base.
Investigators planned to be at the crash site, east of the Susitna River and south of the Denali Highway. The search and recovery efforts are based at the previously shuttered Susitna Lodge about two miles east of a bridge over the Upper Susitna, said John Pennell, a military spokesman in the base's emergency operations center.
Searchers had set up warming tents with heaters, as the temperatures had dipped near 25 below zero overnight, Pennell said.
"Essentially, we're building a forward operating base to continue recovery operations," he said.
On Friday, they found enough of Haney's flight suit and ejection seat to convince them he had died in the crash, said Col. Jack McMullen, commander of the Air Force's 3rd Wing.
"What's happening right now is we're slowing things down, we're going to be very methodical as we conduct the investigation," Pennell said. "We also don't want to rush out there for safety reasons because we don't want anybody to succumb to the cold."
More equipment, supplies and people headed to the base camp area Saturday in personnel transport vehicles, Pennell said. Snowfall in Fairbanks kept Blackhawk helicopters grounded at Fort Wainwright. The Army helicopters would be there soon to assist the operation, Pennell said.
"Sadly, we can no longer consider this a search and rescue operation but must now focus on recovery operations," McMullen said Friday.
Haney, 31, was assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron. He was a top pilot at Western Michigan's flight school, friends and an instructor told the Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper in Michigan.
The university's College of Aviation and Air Force ROTC program organized a vigil Friday night at the Kalamazoo campus.
Haney's best friend from college told the Citizen Patriot that Haney died doing something he loved in the sky over Alaska.
"He always wanted to fly fighter jets, and he always wanted to go to Alaska," Chris Westcott said. Westcott, who flies charter jets, called Haney the best pilot he'd ever known.
Haney leaves behind a wife and two daughters. A college fund has been set up for the Haney children.
The family and the military ask that instead of flowers or gifts, donations specifying "For the Jeffrey Haney children" be made at AirWarriorCourage.org. Donations can also be made by sending a check to AWCF, and mailed to AWCF, P.O. Box 877, Silver Spring, MD 20918-0877.
The check should be designated "For the Jeffrey Haney children."
Find Casey Grove online at adn.com/contact/casey.grove or call him at 257-4589.