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Air Force identifies 2 pilots killed in crash

The U.S. Air Force has identified the two pilots killed when a T-38C trainer crashed on takeoff Wednesday.

Maj. Blair Faulkner, an instructor pilot with the 43rd Flying Training Squadron, and his trainee, 2nd Lt. Matthew Emmons, were killed in the crash, the Air Force said Thursday afternoon.

“This is a difficult time for the (base),” Col. David Gerber, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and squadrons of the pilots.”

The Air Force did not release either pilot’s hometown. However, Faulkner is a married father of two who used to live in Florence, Ala., the TimesDaily of Florence reported.

An investigation into the cause of the crash has been opened.

The deaths were the first aircraft-related fatalities at the base in eastern Mississippi in 24 years. There have been six crashes since then, including three since January 2007.

The TimesDaily reported that Faulkner had served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Turkey and had been based in Louisiana before transferring to Columbus, where the primary mission is pilot training.

Faulkner graduated from the University of North Alabama in 1992 and is survived by his wife, Rachel, and two children, David, 2, and Campbell, 6 months.

Fidelis Harper, Faulkner’s aunt, said his family left Florence for Columbus on Wednesday. She said flying was a boyhood dream for Faulkner.

“He once said, ‘I can’t believe anyone would pay me to do what I do.’ He loved it so much,” Harper told the TimesDaily. “It’s just hard to believe.”