F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Indiana Guard pilot killed in mid-air F-16 collision

May 18, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Two F-16 fighter jets collided at 1:40 PM Monday afternoon over southwestern Indiana. One of the pilots, Maj. William E. Burchett, didn't survive the accident. Whitnesses said his parachute did not open all the way.

USAF F-16C block 30 #86258 of the Indiana ANG flying with a spectacular loadout of 2x AIM-120, 2x AIM-9, 1x ALQ-184, 2 fueltanks and 4x GBU-12 on TER's [USAF photo by SSgt Jason Gamble]

The other pilot, Maj. Thomas R. Sims, parachuted to safety. He was taken by ambulance to a Hospital.

The two jets from the Indiana Air National Guard's 181st Fighter wing in Terre Haute were on routine dogfighting training in airspace reserve (Hulman Field) near the Indiana-Illinois state line.

The wreckages landed in an open field but debris is scattered over a five-mile area in Indiana and Illinois.

Lt. Col. Gregory Clapper, chaplain for the 181st, said members of the unit are trying to go on with their important duties while dealing with the loss.

"When something like this happens to a member of the unit, it's like a member of your family," Clapper said. "It does effect us all. It's not like there's just some faceless statistic."

Burchett, a member of the 181st Fighter Wing since September 2000, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and had more than 2,300 hours flying time in various military aircraft. He had flown missions in Kosovo, Bosnia, Yugoslavia and Saudi Arabia.

In July of 2001, another F-16 jet from the same fighter wing crashed in southern Illinois. The pilot of that jet ejected, parachuted to the ground and walked to a nearby home to report what had happened.

In Memoriam