Iraqi pilot dies in F-16 crash near Safford

SAFFORD, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - An F-16 Fighting Falcon based out of the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing crashed approximately 20 miles northwest of Safford, Ariz. Tuesday at 3 p.m.

According to a translation of the Iraqi Air Force official Facebook page, an Iraqi student pilot named Major Noor Faleh Rassan Al-Khazali was killed in the incident.  He was conducting a routine F-16 training mission in conjunction with the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing in Tucson.  The 162nd makes a specialty of training foreign pilots on the F-16.

Wednesday on Twitter, US Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said "my sincere sympathy to our Iraqi Air Force partners and the pilot's friends and family.

General Dave Goldfein, the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Air Force tweeted, "Saddened to learn this news.  I extend my deepest condolences to this pilot's friends and families and our partners in the Iraqi Air Force."

You might be surprised to know many foreign pilots fly warplanes in Southern Arizona.

Training pilots for America's allies is the special mission of an Arizona Air National Guard unit at Tucson International.

Now that Iraq has become an ally it can buy American F-16s and train pilots in Tucson at the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard.

Iraqi Major Noor Faleh Rassan Al-Khazali was on a training flight when he crashed at Fort Washington, about 20 miles Northwest of Safford.

It was the second crash involving an Iraqi student pilot in roughly the last two years.  In June 2015, this crash near Douglas killed Iraqi Brigadier General Rasid Mohammed Sideeq Hasan.

For close to 30 years, the 162nd has also trained pilots from 25 countries friendly to the US.

Some countries, like the Netherlands have based entire squadrons here.  

Other countries that have trained pilots at the 162nd include Poland, Norway, Belgium and Singapore.

About a thousand Tucsonans work at the 162nd maintaining F-16s as well as using the clear Arizona skies to prepare foreign pilots to defend their countries.

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