A pilot ejects after two Air National Guard fighter jets collide in mid-air, prompting a dramatic rescue at sea by a Coast Guard helicopter.
The crash took place off the coast of Virginia during a routine training mission Thursday night. After the jets collide and the pilot ejects, a distress signal connected to the ejection seat went off to alert the Coast Guard of the accident.
Two other Air Force planes also taking part in the training mission remained in the area and guided the Coast Guard to the pilot, who had a life raft and a flair to remain more visible. The rescue crew, arriving in an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, was able to pull the pilot from the water and waves that reached four feet high.
Captain Michael Odie, chief of public affairs for the air wing, said the F-16C Fighting Falcons clipped wings mid-air during maneuvers. Odie did not say what kind of exercise the pilots were performing, but noted that the Fighting Falcons are often called to intercept aircraft that enter restricted airspace or lose contact with air traffic controllers in the Washington area.
Luckily the fast thinking of the pilot and good work from the Coast Guard was able to "reduce the potential magnitude" of the accident, a commander said.
The names of the pilots involved in the crash were not released, but the Air National Guard noted that both were experienced airmen.
The story of the pilot who ejects in mid-air could have had a much more disastrous ending, Coast Guard officials noted. A storm was approaching the area and quickly approaching in the distance when he was pulled from the water.