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Pilot safe after F-16 jet crashes off Florida Keys

March 12, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - An Air Force Reserve F-16 pilot from 93rd "Makos" FS at Homestead was forced to eject after experiencing a mechanical problem and parachuted safely into the waters off the Florida Keys.

#87-0380 assigned to the 93rd FS shown here carrying a Litening II navigation/targeting pod, an ALQ-131 jamming pod and a AIM-9 air-to-air training missile.

The pilot, who was not immediately identified, was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard shortly after the fighter jet went down about 35 miles east of Marathon, said Lt. Col. Tom Davis, chief of public affairs at Homestead Air Reserve Base.

The F-16 (#87-0380) was one of two jets based at Homestead Air Force Reserve Base in south Miami-Dade County. After the pilot reached the water, at about 10.15h, he contacted his wingman to let him know he was all right,

The Coast Guard had dispatched a Falcon jet, a Dolphin helicopter, a 33-foot rescue boat and two cutters to the scene, said Luis Diaz, Coast Guard spokesman.

The exact cause of the crash is being investigated an an attempt is made to recover as much of the plane as possible.

The jet is one of the 17 F-16s belonging to the 93rd Fighter Squadron at Homestead, a base located located near the southern end of the Florida peninsula, about 25 miles south of Miami.

The squadron converted from the F-4C Phantom II to the F-16A in 1989 and upgraded to the F-16C model in 1995. The F-16s can be identified by the letters "FM" ("Florida Makos") and the mako shark displayed proudly on the tail.

Additional images:

USAF F-16D block 30 #87-0380 of the 522nd FS with a nice golden brown canopy. [Photo by Frank Ertl]