TEMECULA (CNS) – A U.S. Air Force pilot from Temecula who was killed during a training mission on the East Coast was saluted Friday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who ordered flags statewide to be flown at half-staff in memory of the aviator.
USAF 1st Lt. David Schmitz, 32, died on Tuesday when the F-16C Fighting Falcon he was flying crashed at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.
Schmitz was on a night training flight, but few details were available regarding the accident.
(Video courtesy of Shaw Air Force Base Facebook)
He had been assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing’s 77th Fighter Squadron and started his career in the Air Force as an enlisted man, working as a loadmaster aboard mammoth C-17 Globemaster cargo planes, according to published reports.
“I watched Dave walk down the hall in his flight suit, open the front door, and leave,” Scmitz wife, Valerie, shared in a Facebook post. “This time he looked back over his shoulder at me and smiled one last time before he shut the door. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d see my husband alive.
“In an instant, my life had changed forever and my heart shattered into a million pieces. A few hours later I kissed my sweet husband one last time on his cold lips.
“Hold your loved ones close. You never know when it might just be the last time you’ll see them. Your life can change forever in an instant.”
The Temecula native remained focused on his dream of becoming a jet pilot and eventually earned a spot in officer training school, thereafter gaining acceptance into flight training and receiving placement in the F-16, USAF officials said.
The crash remains under investigation.
Jeff Pack contributed to this report.