MOODY AIR FORCE BASE -- The mood among members of the 479th Flying Training Group was somber Monday following the weekend deaths of two pilots.
Capt. Judson Brinson and Capt. Lee Moore died Saturday morning when their T-6A Texan II crashed shortly after its take-off from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
Brinson and Moore were in the Savannah area on a continuous training mission, said Lt. Col. Stephen "Dixie" Winn, commander of the 39th Flying Training Squadron, during a press conference Monday at the "Cobra in the Clouds" headquarters at Moody Air Force Base.
"They were doing instrument navigation training and landed there the day before and took off Saturday morning en route to Valdosta," he said.
The deaths are the first involving the T-6 since it entered the Air Force inventory in 2000.
"Jud and Lee were two of our really young pilots. They were young by our standards," Winn said. "That's one thing we bring to the 479th, and that's older experienced pilots. Lee had been here since 2001, and Jud had been here since early 2003 -- both of them with a lot of flying time before that."
At this time, there's no information as to what caused the accident, Winn said. The matter was turned over to an Air Force investigation board on Monday, Winn said.
At 10 a.m. Monday, Winn met with the 39th Cobras that included all available personnel and their spouses.
"Today was the first time we were together as a group," Winn said. "We had people working around the clock, Saturday, Sunday and today, which is the first business day. It was the first time the entire group was together to tell everybody in the unit exactly what we knew and what to expect. I told them what we knew about the accident and told them what we had done so far for the families, and our expectations of what we need to do for each other."
The 39th is the only reserve component in the 479th FTG. As its commander, Winn knew both pilots very well and has the final say as to which pilots he hires to be in the unit. Both Brinson and Moore were attached to the 3rd FTS as instructor pilots responsible for training future pilots in the Air Force and Navy in the Joint Undergraduate Pilot Training. Winn had flown with each man in the T-6 aircraft.
"Interestingly, they were both locals, both grew up here in Georgia," Winn said.
Moore grew up in Statesboro, and Brinson moved back to Thomasville with his family, Winn added.
"The squadron is a pretty tight bunch, and our sympathies are with the families and friends that Dug and Lee left behind. I would count myself among them," Winn said.
Asked about the T-6, Winn said it has a strong safety record and there have never been any other fatalities involving the craft. "It's an airplane I've flown; it's a magnificent machine ... "
There are no plans to ground the T-6s at Moody. All the aircraft that were off station flew into Moody on Sunday, Winn said. Also, the East Coast Demo Team that uses the T-6 performed in Florida and dedicated the show to Moore and Brinson, which has never been done, Winn said.
The training of future pilots at Moody will continue. "As a matter of fact at 11:50 today, Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals will be business as usual, and tomorrow morning starting at 7 or 7:30 it will be business as usual with a full day of training with IFF and Undergraduate Pilot Training," said Col. Anthony "Lazer" Lazarski, commander of the 479th Flying Training Group.
"One thing that 'Dixie' did say, people are grieving in different ways. Some people may not be ready to go back and fly tomorrow, and we understand that and they won't be on schedule, but as far as the group (479th), we're business as usual."
To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.
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