Air Force pilot killed in crash was Wantagh grad
BY MATTHEW CHAYES
May 24, 2009
An Air Force pilot who had wanted to fly since his days as a high-achieving student at Wantagh High School has been killed in a military jet crash in California, the Air Force said.
Capt. Mark P. Graziano, 30, died Thursday afternoon in the training mission over the Mojave Desert that injured the senior navigator who ejected.
The T-38A supersonic jet piloted by Graziano went down near California City, about nine miles north of Edwards Air Force Base. The other airman, senior navigator Maj. Lee V. Jones, was hospitalized.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he was saddened at the death.
"He did three tours in Iraq, and he survived that, and he was killed on a training mission, and it just shows that the job of the military is dangerous day in and day out - whether on the battlefield or on training missions here at home," King said. "And coming just before Memorial Day weekend, it's a vivid reminder how much we owe the men and women of the military who are putting their lives on the line, whether it's in Iraq or Afghanistan or over a desert in the United States."
The senior navigator is in stable condition at a Bakersfield hospital, a statement from the base said.
A board of officers is investigating Thursday's accident, the Air Force said.
Jones and Graziano were assigned to the base's Test Pilot School. Graziano was training to be a test pilot, and Jones was training to become a test navigator.
"We are shocked and saddened by this sudden loss and our hearts and prayers go out to Mark's family and loved ones," Col. Terry M. Luallen, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School commandant, said in a statement. "We are doing all we can to support Mark's family during this trying time."
According to Graziano's online MySpace profile, Graziano completed a bachelor's degree in "aero engineering" in 2000 from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a degree in mechanical engineering in 2008 from the University Of Idaho.
Graziano's achievements as a young man on Long Island - Advanced Placement Scholar, designer of electric cars in Wantagh High's technology lab, volunteer guide at Nassau County's Cradle of Aviation Museum - led then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan to nominate him to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
In a 1996 interview with Newsday, a 17-year-old Graziano spoke about an electric vehicle he designed and built while at Wantagh High School. He said those advancing electric vehicle technology would determine the future "like the Wright brothers."
In a statement, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said: "As Memorial Day approaches and with great sadness, we add the life of Captain Mark P. Graziano to the list of veterans we honor each year and who bravely lost their lives serving our country. My family and I will be thinking of the young captain we lost and his family during this time of grieving."
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