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Pilot of F-16C that crashed in Nevada did not eject

June 30, 2011 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The pilot of the USAF F-16C that crashed on public land near the Nevada Test and Training Range earlier this week didn't survive, officials at Nellis Air Force Base said today.

USAF F-16C block 25 #85-1413 from 64 AS departs Nellis AFB December 8th, 2010. This jet crashed on the Nevada Test and Training Range on June 28, 2011.

U.S. Air Force officials said search and rescue teams found conclusive evidence that the pilot didn't eject from the aircraft before the crash, which occurred about 17:30h Tuesday about 20 miles west of Caliente on Bureau of Land Management property.

Nellis Air Force Base officials release the name of pilot as being Capt. Eric Ziegler, 30, a 2003 Air Force Academy graduate assigned to Nellis.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot’s immediate family, Air Force family, and friends during this difficult time," Brig. Gen. T.J. O’Shaughnessy, 57th Wing commander, said in a statement.

The fighter jet was participating in an air-to-air combat training mission when it went down. The accident occurred during a "dogfight" within the 12,000-square-mile operating airspace managed by the Test and Training Range.

The jet was not armed with live weaponry when it crashed and did not have an "active" locating device. Jets such as F-16Cs are normally equipped with an ejection seat that has a built-in emergency locator transponder, as described in an Air Force fact sheet.However, officials involved in the search did not detect a signal in the vicinity of the crash area.

Nellis is the busiest flying base in Air Combat Command, producing 42,000 sorties each year. In addition to fighter pilot training, regular Red Flag and Green Flag air combat training exercises are conducted involving warplanes from bases within and outside the United States.

The range's 12,000 square miles of airspace includes 5,000 square miles over public land but jets such as the F-22 Raptor can cross it in seven minutes, flying at roughly 17 miles per minute.

The last fatal crash during a combat exercise over the Nellis range complex occurred July 30, 2008, when Lt. Col. Thomas A. Bouley, who commanded the 65th Aggressor Squadron, was killed when his F-15D Eagle fighter jet went down with a Royal Air Force exchange pilot observing from the back seat who managed to escape the crash by ejecting 740 feet above the high desert terrain.

In Memoriam
Additional images:

USAF F-16C block 25 #85-1413 from the 64th AS is seen coming into land at Nellis AFB on August 24th, 2010. [Photo by EOR]