Aviation News

June 30, 2011

Missing US Air Force F-16 Pilot Found Dead in Nevada, Was Unable to Eject

The U.S. Air Force on Thursday said that judging by the wreckage they had located, the pilot of an F-16 which crashed Tuesday was unable to eject before the aircraft went down.

Wisconsin Air National Guard F-16

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Paul Gorman)

According to Nellis Air Force Base officials, Captain Eric Ziegler, 30, died during the crash, which involved an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft that took off from the base and crashed at around 5:30 p.m. local time within Nevada’s military aerospace.

Ziegler took off from Nellis Air Force Base, which is located around 7.1 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, and was conducting air-to-air combat exercises about 150 miles north of the city. During the exercises, the aircraft crashed in an area some 20 miles west of Caliente in Nevada’s Lincoln County, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

After investigations, evidence showed that Ziegler, from West Fargo, North Dakota, did not eject in time before the crash, Brigadier General T.J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base said, adding that the aircraft were conducting a ‘dogfight’ exercise but were not equipped with live weaponry with an active locating device.

The U.S. Air Force had deployed three helicopters to conduct search and rescue efforts until Wednesday, and authorities said investigations will continue in order to determine the cause of the crash.

The incident occurred within the 12,000-square-mile military airspace of the the Nevada Test that surrounds the 3-million-acre Training Range, including 5,000 square miles over public land, Nellis Air Force Base spokesman Chuck Ramey had previously stated.

Zeigler was a high school football standout before graduating from West Fargo High School. He helped the team win the state championship in 1999. He later graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2003. He is survived by his wife, Sarah, who works for the Air Force in Las Vegas, and 9-month-old daughter, Anna, according to The Forum newspaper of Fargo-Moorhead.