November 15, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Air Force resumed flight operations Thursday at an air base in northern Japan after completing extensive safety checks following a collision of two F-16C fighter jets. Flying operations of the two squadrons of F-16 aircraft at Misawa Air Base resumed after all planes met the requirements of the stringent safety inspection.
A joint U.S. -Japan search for one of the pilots in Monday's clash was called off Wednesday after they swept the waters off the northern island of Hokkaido for more than 48 hours. The pilot - 27-year-old Capt. Warren B. Sneed of Circleville, Ohio - had been missing since the accident early Monday and "is deemed lost at sea and declared dead, " the military said. The pilot of the other jet, Col. Michael Lepper, was rescued shortly after the crash. Lepper's hometown has not been released. The cause of the collision is under investigation.
The collision took place about 410 miles north of Tokyo over the Sea of Japan during a joint U.S. -Japanese military exercise. Both pilots were based at Misawa. The crash was the latest in a string of accidents in recent years involving the U.S. military that have raised concerns about the safety of Japanese living near American bases. Misawa is home to about 5, 400 U.S. service people and is used by 3, 300 members of Japan's air defense forces.