F-16 Fighter Jets Collide in Mid-Air over Georgia, Pilots Eject Safely

Senior Airman Ashleigh S. Pavelek/U.S. Air National Guard(EASTOVER, S.C.) — Two F-16 Air National Guard fighter jet pilots are safe after their planes collided in mid-air Tuesday during routine night-flying operations.

The pilots safely ejected from their single-seat planes at 9:15 p.m. over a military operating area in Jefferson County, Georgia, according to the South Carolina Air National Guard.

The pilots are members of the 169th Fighter Wing stationed at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, South Carolina. They were taken to a medical facility after the crash and released, Col. Nicholas Gentile, commander of the 169th Fighter Wing, said.

The crash destroyed both F-16s, Gentile told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning.

He called the night-flying operation “very regular” for the pilots, one for which they train “on a nightly basis.”

The commander said the pilots involved in the collision are “highly experienced” and some of the most senior in the wing. Their names have not been released because of the ongoing investigation.

The 169th Fighter Wing will not conduct training operations this evening, but Gentile said that because of an upcoming deployment, his pilots will be back in the skies by the end of the week.

This is the latest in a string of crashes for military flying teams.

A Blue Angels F/A-18 pilot, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, died in a crash outside of Nashville during a practice session last Thursday.

The same day, an Air Force F-16 Thunderbird crashed near Colorado Springs shortly after performing a flyover at the nearby Air Force Academy graduation. That pilot was able to eject safely.

In-late May, two Navy F/A-18s crashed off the coast of North Carolina. All four of those Navy aviators survived and were rescued at sea.

Col. Gentile told reporters he doesn’t believe this investigation will show any links to those crashes.

“Accidents happen,” he said. “But we’ve really gotten good at making it [flying] safe.”

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