The F/A-18D Hornet jet was from the VFA-106 training squadron at Naval Air Station Oceana. The squadron’s mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 replacement pilots and weapon systems officers before they join fleet squadrons.
According to the squadron web site, “Every 6 weeks a class of between 8-12 newly-winged Navy and Marine Corps Aircrew begins the 9 month training course in which they will learn the basics of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions culminating in day/night carrier qualification and subsequent assignment to a fleet Hornet squadron.” The squadron also trains experienced Navy and Marine Corps aviators transitioning to the F/A-18.
The crash happened in the Hampton Roads area, which has a large concentration of military bases, including Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world.
Although most people in the area – including many military families – support military operations there, there are occasional complaints about low-flying jets, as there are at other military air bases around the country. Over the years, residential neighborhoods and businesses have grown up around many US military facilities.
Meanwhile, it’s likely to be months before official investigations determine the cause of the accident.
"We will conduct a complete investigation into the cause of this mishap and share all information we have as soon as we are able to do so," Admiral John Harvey, Jr., the US Fleet Forces commander, said in a statement Friday.
But for now the focus is on accounting for and tending to residents in the area.
"We're going to assume that there are people missing, and we're going to do a detailed search,” Virginia Beach Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Riley told CNN. "It's going to take a while to get through there to see the details.”