UPDATE – Pilot Killed In F-16 Crash Identified

WARBIRD RADIO – According to a news release U.S. Air Force officials have identified the pilot involved in an aircraft mishap near Caliente, Nev., June 28 as Capt. Eric Ziegler, 30, an operational test and evaluation instructor pilot with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base.

Brig. Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of the 57th Wing, announced June 30 that search and rescue teams had found conclusive evidence that Captain Ziegler did not survive when his U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon crashed during a combat training exercise. The mishap occurred on Bureau of Land Management property approximately 20 miles west of Caliente while the aircraft was operating in military airspace managed by the Nevada Test and Training Range.

A native of West Fargo, N.D., Captain Ziegler was a 1999 graduate of West Fargo High School. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2003 and earned a master’s degree in 2010. Captain Ziegler was an experienced pilot with over 1,200 flight hours, primarily in the F-16 Fighting Falcon, with operational assignments at Kunsan Air Base, Korea; Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; and Nellis AFB, Nev. During those assignments, he flew more than 300 combat hours on three deployments. His decorations include the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and an Aerial Achievement Medal. Captain Ziegler also had recently been selected to attend the elite U.S. Air Force Weapons School.

“Words can’t express how much we’ll miss Eric,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Suttlemyre, 422 TES commander. “He was a special friend, a phenomenal husband and father, and a terrific aviator and officer. Our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time.”

The family of Captain Ziegler has requested privacy, but said the following in a prepared family statement:

“Eric was a man of character and faith who deeply loved his family as well as flying. His sense of humor, spontaneity, faith, zest for life, love of family and country are the hallmarks of his personality. He was a true son of the United States.”

An investigation into the accident began almost immediately.

“For the next several weeks, a trained investigation board will focus its 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,” General O’Shaughnessy said. “The safety of the local community and our Airmen is my top priority.”

More information will be posted at www.nellis.af.mil, the Nellis Air Force Base official website, as it becomes available.

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