Second Lt. Anthony D. Wentz, a student pilot killed Friday morning in what Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas is calling a mishap between two trainer aircraft on a runway, graduated from Falcon High School in 2016 and told The Gazette a few weeks before accepting his diploma that he wanted to follow in his father footsteps as a pilot.
“I’ve always wanted to serve in the military,” he said at the time, before heading to a four-year appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York.
Two other pilots were injured in the accident that killed Wentz, 23, a member of the 47th Student Squadron, according to a news release from the 47th Flying Training Wing.
The supersonic T-38 Talon jet trainer is mostly used to prepare airmen to fly fighter and bomber planes, according to the Air Force.
The pilot in critical condition was airlifted to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, the 47th Flying Training Wing said in its release. The other injured pilot was treated and released from Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio, where the base is located, along the Texas border with Mexico.
“A loss such as this affects us all, but one thing we never fail to do in times of crisis is come together, support one another and respond,” Col. Craig Prather, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our focus remains on supporting the families involved and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with them and our teammates today.”
Wentz told The Gazette five years ago that he was eager to join his brother, who was finishing his freshman year at West Point.
"One of the perks is that it's free," Wentz said. "You get a paycheck every month and a really good education."
He aspired to become an Apache helicopter pilot and was one of six Falcon High School students to receive appointments to a U.S. military service academy that year — a record for the school.
"I've been doing a lot of running, push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups, and will try to enjoy my freedom while I still have it," Wentz had said. "It's going be a tough, crazy four years, but I can do it."
The cause of the incident is under investigation, the news release said.
Another fatal T-38C training jet crash on Feb. 19 in Montgomery, Ala. was found to be instructor and student pilot error, according to an Air Force investigation.