Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

Currently: 87° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Nellis says pilot died in F-16 crash

Image

Nellis Air Force Base

An F-16 Fighting Falcon Aggressor flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range Oct. 19, 2009.

Fatal Nellis F-16 crash

KSNV coverage of fatal F-16 fighter jet crash, June 30, 2011.

Crash vicinity

The pilot of a U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon jet that crashed near Caliente earlier this week didn't survive, officials at Nellis Air Force Base said today.

U.S. Air Force officials said search and rescue teams found conclusive evidence that the pilot didn't eject from the aircraft before the crash, which occurred about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday about 20 miles west of Caliente on Bureau of Land Management property.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot’s immediate family, Air Force family, and friends during this difficult time," Brig. Gen. T.J. O’Shaughnessy, 57th Wing commander, said in a statement.

Air Force officials weren't releasing the name and unit of the pilot on Thursday, but the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald identified him as Air Force Capt. Eric Ziegler, 30, a 1999 graduate of West Fargo High School in North Dakota.

Ziegler leaves behind a 9-month-old daughter and his wife, Sarah, a North Dakota native who also works for the Air Force in Las Vegas, according to the Herald.

The fighter jet from Nellis was participating in an air-to-air combat training mission when it went down.

“We have started an investigation into this mishap, but we are in the very early stages of this investigation,” O’Shaughnessy said. “For the next several weeks, a trained investigation board will focus their exclusive efforts on collecting and protecting evidence from the scene and gathering and analyzing all relevant data with the specific purpose of determining the cause so we may prevent future mishaps.”

The Herald reported Ziegler, a 2003 Air Force Academy graduate, had served two tours in Iraq, and started on both offense and defense and played on special teams on his high school football team.

“He was a tremendous competitor,” Jay Gibson, his high school football coach, told the Herald. “He really wanted to win, but whether he won or lost, he always had a smile on his face.”

The F-16 is a multi-role fighter that is capable of both air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. The F-16 was designed with proven reliable systems from other aircraft, such as the F-15 and the F-111, according to an Air Force fact sheet on the plane. The aircraft is controlled via a "fly-by-wire" system in which electrical wires relay pilot commands, replacing cables and linkage controls.

The $18.8 million plane, which is powered by a single jet engine, can reach speeds of 1,500 mph and has a range of more than 2,000 miles, the Air Force reports.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 4 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. Thank you sir for your service to our country.

  2. I am so sorry to hear of this. May he soar in the heavens above and in our hearts below.

  3. May the wings of angels be with you now, thank you for your service.

  4. I think America would be sad to know just how many of our military die or are seriously injured each year in training and on the job accidents. I have never seen any figures on this but during my time in the Navy there were quite a few.