An inquest has been told Corrie McKeague is believed to have died after he climbed into an industrial waste bin while drunk on a night out and it was then emptied into a lorry
He vanished in the early hours of September 24 2016 after a night out in Bury St Edmunds.
No trace of him has been found but Suffolk's senior coroner, Nigel Parsley, said Mr McKeague "died in the Suffolk jurisdiction in September 2016".
The hearing in Ipswich has been opened and adjourned.
Marina Ericson, Temporary Chief Superintendent of Suffolk Police, told the hearing it is believed that Mr McKeague climbed into a bin which was emptied into a waste lorry where he subsequently died.
She said Mr McKeague drove into Bury St Edmunds on the evening of Friday September 23 2016 and met up with RAF colleagues to go drinking and socialising.
Corrie was last seen alive at 3.25am, on CCTV footage, entering a horseshoe-shaped area in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop, where there are several industrial waste bins.
Ms Ericson said a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin at 4.19am, and the bin was recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb).
This was around 70kg to 80kg (12st 8lb) more than its average weight.
"Corrie's mobile phone, having connected to the internet, provided a signal from this point which mapped the movements of the waste lorry to the Barton Mills roundabout. At that point, the mobile service provider lost the signal. Despite an extensive police-led investigation and search, there has been no proof of life since the last sighting of Corrie at 3.25am on Saturday September 24 2016. It is believed that Corrie, having climbed into the Greggs waste bin located in the area of the horseshoe in Brentgovel Street, was in the bin when it was emptied into the Biffa waste lorry and this is where he subsequently died." Mr McKeague's mother, Nicola Urquhart, listened to proceedings remotely, while his father, Martin McKeague, and his wife, Trisha, attended the hearing in person. Ms Urquhart previously said she had asked for an inquest for her son and was "extremely hopeful that this will give us answers".