Feb 20, 2012 7:21 PM by Matt Stafford
An Air Force Special Operations pilot from Colorado Springs and an Air Force Academy graduate are two of four Americans killed in an aircraft crash Saturday in Djibouti, on the east coast of Africa near the Red Sea.
Captain Ryan P. Hall with the 319th Special Operations Squadron and 1st Lt Justin L. Wilkens with the 34th Special Operations Squadron were both aboard a U-28A aircraft that crashed about six miles from Djibouti International Airport, near Camp Lemonnier (a U.S. Facility handling operations in the Horn of Africa). The U-28A was returning from a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom; No other details about the mission have been released.
U.S. military secured the site of the crash and provided immediate response; now a safety board investigation is looking into the cause of the crash, according to a press release from U.S. AFRICOM public affairs.
Capt. Hall was on his seventh deployment. He had been stationed at Hurlburt Field in Florida. He entered the Air Force in 2004, receiving a commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corp at The Citadel, according to public affairs for the 1st Special Operations Wing. He was assigned to the Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field in 2007, and had logged more that 1,300 combat flight hours.
1st Lt. Wilkens, 26, from Bend OR; was a combat systems officer on his third deployment. He entered the Air Force in 2009 and received his commission through the Air Force Academy. He was also stationed at Hurlburt Field.
Also killed in the crash:
-Capt. Nicholas Whitlock, 29, of Newman, GA; a U-28A pilot assigned to the 34th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field.
-Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, MD; a mission systems operator assigned to the 25th Intelligence Squadron at Hurlburt Field.
Capt. Hall was a U-28A pilot; the type of aircraft he was in that crashed Saturday. According the Globalsecurity.org, a source of defense related information not affiliated with the U.S. government; the U-28A is used by the military in support of special operations. The aircraft is often used for its versatility to take off from, and land on short or rough runway surfaces. "The U-28A is also certified to land on dirt or grass strips," the site says.
According to the Air Force, the U-28A is a single engine, manned fixed wing aircraft developed around the Pilatus PC-12 airframe. It provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities supporting special operations forces.
A spokesperson with the 1st Special Operations Wing public affairs office says Capt. Hall's family has been at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, waiting for Captain Hall's remains to return home.
Pictures of the men hadn't been released by the time of this posting; a spokesperson for the 1st Special Operations Wing tells News 5 that they don't have the official photos on file.