NORFOLK, Va. — A formal investigation is already underway into what caused a Navy airplane to crash Monday on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
It could've been much worse.
All four crew members bailed out safely from the E-2C Hawkeye before the 26-ton aircraft crashed into a farmer's field.
The Navy tells 13News Now, "The crew is in good health and has returned to their loved ones."
As is the case in every instance of what is called a "Class A" mishap, a Navy accident review board will conduct a thorough and exhaustive fact-finding investigation.
A little over 24 hours after the $176-million tactical early warning aircraft was totally destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire, Naval Air Force Atlantic Public Affairs Officer CDR Jennifer Cragg said it would be "inappropriate" to discuss the investigation further, "until it has been finalized."
The investigation will be helped tremendously by the fact that there are living eyewitnesses who will be able to tell exactly what they saw and experienced.
"Normally when you get an accident like this, nobody survives it," said retired Navy rear admiral and former pilot Fred Metz."It's a very thorough procedure. They have the Safety Center here who will make available the expertise."
Metz has overseen numerous such probes. He says investigators will want to hear from the aviators.
"What gave them the indication they had to get out of the airplane? Something happened that was drastic enough that they made a decision to jump out, rather than go land somewhere," he said.
PHOTOS: Navy plane crashes in Accomack County
The Northrop Grumman E-2C and its predecessor variants date all the way back to 1964.
For the Navy, through 56 years of active service, the turboprop's safety record seems pretty good.
According to the Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives, including yesterday, the E-2C has suffered just nine major crashes between 1978 and 2020, resulting in a total of 21 deaths.
But such mishaps are rare.
The most recent loss of an E-2 before Monday was 10 years ago, in March of 2010 in the Indian Ocean; one person died in that crash.
As for this mishap, the Navy has no timetable for completion of the investigation, but typically, they can take several months.