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Body of U.S. pilot found

Two F-15C planes, similar to the one shown, failed to return to base  

ABERDEEN, Scotland (CNN) -- The body of a U.S. F-15 pilot has been recovered from the peak of a mountain in the Scottish Highlands.

The discovery came before a snowstorm and strong winds forced officials to call off the search for a second jet believed to have crashed in the same area, Royal Air Force and U.S. military officials said.

More than 200 searchers, including RAF rescue personnel, police, civilian volunteers and three types of aircraft, had combed the rugged terrain until the search efforts were called off due to the weather on Tuesday evening.

CNN's Tom Mintier describes the search and rescue operation and shows the area the jets were in

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Royal Air Force personnel located the wreckage of one of the F-15C jets on Tuesday morning and got crews to the peak to recover the body of the pilot ahead of the storm, said Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman in Washington.

"They have recovered the remains of one of the pilots," Quigley told reporters. "We don't know which it is yet."

He said a front moved in during the day, bringing white out conditions, heavy snow, winds up to 50 mph and temperatures well below zero. Quigley said forecasters predict similar conditions for the next 24-48 hours.

"When it is safe to continue the search, they will continue to do so," he said.

U.S. military officials told CNN that members of the search-and-rescue team reported finding a parachute open at the scene of the crash and that the airplane's Plexiglas canopy was separated from the single-seat aircraft.

The parachute appeared to be "deployed," said one official, an indication the pilot may have attempted to eject an instant prior to impact, but not in time to escape death.

The whereabouts of a second F-15C and its pilot missing since Monday is still unknown.

An RAF official told CNN that the wreckage of the other single-seat F-15 was at an elevation of nearly 4,300 feet on Ben MacDui mountain.

RAF spokesman Michael Mulford said rescuers had spotted three spare fuel tanks of the kind they knew the jets were carrying.

The two F-15C jets disappeared on Monday on a low-level training flight in the Cairngorm Mountains. They were declared missing after they did not returned to the RAF base at Lakenheath, England, as scheduled.

The missing pilots were Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Hyvonen and Captain Kirk Jones, both assigned to U.S. squadrons based at Lakenheath, which is about 100 kilometres (70 miles) north east of London.

Quigley said officials were working to identify the remains of the recovered body.

Hyvonen joined the Air Force in 1984 and was assigned to the 48th Operations Support Squadron at Lakenheath and not to an F-15 squadron, although he is a "current and qualified F-15C pilot," according to an Air Force spokeswoman.

Jones was assigned to the 493rd Fighter Squadron at Lakenheath.

U.S. Air Force Colonel John Brennan said there was a "metre of snow" in the crash area. He said search crews had found fuel tanks and a canopy as well as the parachute.

He said the families of both fliers are in England. "They are taking it as best they can," he said.

Brennan said searchers had attempted to follow the flight path of the two fighters using radar data. At the time they took off on Monday afternoon the weather conditions were considered acceptable for the flight, he said.

The F-15C "Eagle" is an air-to-air combat fighter that carries just a single pilot. The jets were from the 493rd Flight Squadron.

CNN's Chris Plante in Washington and Todd Baxter in London
contributed to this report

U.S. Air Force
Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team
F15s: U.S. Air Force pictures
Key facts: F15C jets

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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