F/A-18D Hornet
An F/A-18D Hornet from Fighter Attack Squadron 224 in 2019. Marine Corps photo

The pilot who died in a crash of an F/A-18D Hornet in the eastern reaches of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has been identified as Maj. Andrew Mettler, the U.S. Marine Corps announced Saturday.

“I am deeply saddened to share the loss of Maj. Andrew `Simple Jack’ Mettler, a fellow Marine aviator who was honing his craft as a Hornet pilot and leader in his squadron, the Fighting Bengals,” 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Commanding General Maj. Gen. Scott Benedict said in a statement.

“I had the great honor of flying in an F/A-18D with Simple Jack and will always remember his skill piloting the Hornet and his wry smile. It is with great humility that I offer my deepest condolences to the family, loved ones, and friends of Maj. Andrew Mettler. You remain at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers,” Benedict added.

Mettler served as an F/A-18 Hornet pilot stationed on Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. At the time of the crash he was assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 , which was participating in a service level training exercise, Marine officials said.

The East Coast-based F/A-18D Hornet went down for unknown reasons in a remote area east of Interstate 15 and south of Scripps Ranch at about 11:55 p.m. Thursday, according to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing public affairs.

Emergency-services crews and Coast Guard personnel, about 80 searchers in all, combed a wide area on and around the grounds of the northern San Diego military base in hopes of finding the missing pilot — the only one aboard the aircraft when it crashed.

Late Friday morning, Marine Corps officials reported that the flier’s body had been located.

The F/A-18 Hornet is the nation’s first all-weather fighter and attack aircraft, and is considered “the workhorse of Marine Corps tactical aviation,” according to Naval Air Systems Command.

The reason for the crash is under investigation.

Mettler was honored with many awards, including the Navy Unit Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with four bronze stars.

“As 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, we mourn the loss of one of our brothers who was devoted to the Marine Corps mission, and it is our duty to continue forward in a manner that would reflect his devotion,” Benedict said. “Maj. Mettler’s legacy will remain with every Marine, Sailor and civilian that he served with, and we have the obligation to continue to uphold the values that he stood for. He will be deeply missed within the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and among his brothers and sisters at the Fighting Bengals.”

— City News Service