April 07, 2006

F-16 Crashes Into Ocean

A Shaw Air Force Base pilot was rescued Wednesday night about two hours after his F-16 plunged into the ocean off the South Carolina coast.

The pilot, Capt. Ted Shultz of the 55th Fighter Squadron, was in stable condition, said Petty Officer Bobby Nash, a Coast Guard spokesman.

After being treated on a Navy ship that was in the area, the pilot was transferred to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, Nash added.

The crash happened about 5:40 p.m., approximately 30 miles off the coast between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, Shaw spokesman Lt. Bryan Cox said.

The F-16 was one of two fighters participating in a training exercise over a section of the ocean where military jets are allowed to fly at supersonic speeds, Cox added.

The pilot of the second jet saw Shultz eject from the doomed fighter and parachute safely into the ocean, Cox said. The second pilot then circled the area to assist the search.

A Coast Guard search-and-rescue team dispatched from Charleston found Shultz about 7:35 p.m., Nash said.

Once the helicopter reached the crash scene, its crew lowered a rescue swimmer into the water to assist the pilot.

Meantime, a nearby Navy ship launched one of its small boats to pick up Shultz and the Coast Guard crewman, Nash said.

The pilot was checked aboard the Navy ship and transferred to MUSC.

A board of officers will investigate, Cox said.

Wednesday's crash is the first involving a Shaw fighter since April 18 when a two-seater jet crashed into marshland along the Ashley River near downtown Charleston.

Both pilots ejected safely and were not injured. An investigation found that a maintenance crew's failure to install seals on a turbine blade led to the crash.

Fighters from Shaw, as well as McEntire Air National Guard Station and Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, routinely train over the Atlantic.

By operating over the ocean, the jets can fly at supersonic speeds, keeping down noise levels and staying away from areas where there is heavy commercial air traffic.

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