F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Misawa pilot rescued by fisherman after parachuting into Sea of Japan

April 17, 2002 (by Wayne Specht and Naoko Sekioka) - Misawa pilot Maj. Chad Miller (USAF) safely ejected from his F-16C aircraft over the Sea of Japan during routine training Monday. He floated upon the Sea of Japan in his lifeboat for less than an hour when Japanese fisherman Kunitaka Yamazaki pulled him aboard his fishing vessel.
Miller had aimed his crippled F-16 toward the water, ejected and parachuted into the waters off Aomori Prefecture around 11:30 a.m. Monday, officials said. He landed in the water approximately 4,500 feet off shore, his aircraft slamming into the sea about 900 feet from the coast.

He was reportedly unhurt Monday after Yamazaki, a 49-year-old fisherman, was one of a dozen with the Oodose Fishermen's Cooperative in Fukaura, 82 miles west of Misawa Air Base, who raced to help retrieve him.

Miller and another F-16 took off from Misawa at 11:09 a.m. and headed west for training areas over the Sea of Japan for what Utterback described as a basic fighter-maneuvering mission.

Between 11:20 to 11:25 a.m., Utterback said, the pilot radioed to air traffic controllers that he was declaring an emergency, and he attempted to return to the base.

Air Force officials said Monday that they won?t know what caused Miller's $23 million F-16C to malfunction until safety and accident investigation boards convene. Those examinations typically take several months.

Miller is an experienced pilot with more than 2,000 flying hours in fighter aircraft, 900 hours in the F-16, the general said.

"He is an instructor pilot as well as a pilot evaluator," Utterback said.
A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force UH-60J helicopter with the 2nd Fleet Air Wing at Hachinohe, Japan, 15 miles south of Misawa, flew to the scene and pulled Miller from the vessel as a Japanese P-3C and other Misawa F-16s flew overhead.

The F-16 did not carry bombs or training bullets, and was using airspace that is dedicated for military training operations to minimize noise over populated areas.

It is estimated that there were 1,000 gallons of JP-8 fuel aboard the aircraft. Some wreckage reportedly was recovered by local residents after it washed ashore on beaches.

The crash came one year after another Misawa F-16 crashed into the Pacific Ocean while conducting training at Ripsaw Gunnery Range, 20 miles north of the base. The pilot safely ejected during the April 3, 2001, incident and investigators determined engine failure was responsible.

According to Web statistics compiled by the Air Force Safety Center headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., the Air Force has lost 120 F-16C models since fiscal year 1985, and the aircraft has flown 3.34 million hours.

Recent Misawa F-16 accidents

April 15, 2002: A 14th Fighter Squadron F-16C crashes into the Sea of Japan off western Honshu during routine training. Maj. Chad Miller safely ejects and is rescued by Japanese fishermen and Maritime Self-Defense Forces after aiming his crippled jet away from populated areas.

Nov. 8, 2001: A 14th Fighter Squadron F-16CJ jettisons two fuel tanks and a training missile after the pilot declares an in-flight emergency. Tank portions and missile land in a farm field in Itsukawame, a farming community two miles northeast of Misawa. No ground injuries are reported.

April 3, 2001: A 13th Fighter Squadron F-16CJ plunges into the Pacific Ocean immediately east of the Ripsaw Gunnery Range. Pilot 1st Lt. Mark Hadley safely ejects and is rescued by Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces. No ground injuries are reported.

Nov. 13, 2000: Two 14th Fighter Squadron F-16s collide in midair west of Hokkaido during Operation Keen Sword exercises. Col. Michael Lepper, 35th Operations Group commander, successfully ejects from his aircraft. Capt. Warren B. Sneed is pronounced lost at sea. Air Force accident investigators cite both pilots for the incident.

January 1999: A 13th Fighter Squadron pilot safely ejects from his F-16CJ shortly before it crashes in Iwate Prefecture mountains, 87 miles south of Misawa. The investigation reveals pilot error was cited after the pilot said he was wrestling with what he thought was a problem with his flight suit?s zipper. The pilot ejects, and no ground injuries are reported.

July 1998: Pilot with the 14th Fighter Squadron is badly burned when he aborted a takeoff from Misawa Air Base in his F-16CJ. The pilot died two months later from burns. An investigation could not determine a reason for the aborted takeoff.

April 1993: F-16 with Misawa?s former 432nd Fighter Wing crashes three miles west of Osan Air Base, South Korea. The pilots eject safely, and no ground injuries are reported.

January 1992: A 432nd Fighter Wing F-16 with the 13th Fighter Squadron plunges into the Pacific Ocean, 650 miles east of Japan, following an accident during in-flight refueling enroute to a U.S. training exercise. The pilot ejects and is rescued by a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force seaplane.

September 1991: A 432nd Fighter Wing F-16 crashes into a park on Misawa Air Base shortly after a night takeoff during an operational readiness inspection. The pilot safely ejects. No one on the ground is injured.

April 1989: A 432nd Fighter Wing F-16 crashes in Iwate Prefecture mountains approximately 60 miles south of Misawa. The pilot safely ejects, and no injuries are reported on the ground.


Published on April 17, 2002 in the Pacific edition of Stars and Stripes.
Used with permission from Stars and Stripes, a DoD publication.
© 2000 Stars and Stripes.