Rawlick, also a Navy pilot stationed at Whidbey, remembers when her friend learned she had been selected for flight school in Pensacola, Fla. She started almost immediately after receiving her commission, quickly moving up to jet training in Meridian, Miss.

"She was excited to challenge herself, to take that next step," Rawlick said. "She's always been fearless."

Witnesses quoted by The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane described seeing two Navy jets flying over the wheat fields of Eastern Washington on Monday morning — a common sight for residents there.

Locals near the crash site compared the sound of the impact to an earthquake. They said the second plane circled over the crash for about 30 minute before returning to base.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who nominated Cappelaere Delaney for admission to the academy, offered his condolences to her family.

"A student scholar, athlete and avid community service participant, Valerie represented the 'total package,'" Cummings said. "I was quite proud to nominate her for admission to the Naval Academy, and am even prouder to know she had an opportunity to serve her country the way her grandfather…had and the way she always wanted."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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