F-16s collide in mid-air, pilot missing in Atlantic

Capt. Lee Bryant (middle) during a training session (Source: Shaw Air Force Base)
Capt. Lee Bryant (middle) during a training session (Source: Shaw Air Force Base)

CHARLESTON, SC (WMBF) - U.S. Coast Guard rescue teams continue to search for missing pilot, Capt. Nicholas Giglio, whose F-16 Fighting Falcon collided in mid-air with another aircraft, sending it plunging into the Atlantic Ocean off the South Carolina coast.

Officials at the Shaw Air Force Base say the two Fighting Falcons, assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing, collided around 8:30 p.m. while participating in night training maneuvers. The crash happened 40 miles east of Folly Beach, according to Rob Sexton, the chief of public affairs at Shaw.

One of the F-16 jets was able to land safely at the Charleston Air Force Base, where the pilot, Capt. Lee Bryant, is being examined by Air Force medical personnel.

The pilot's hometowns were not immediately available.

Sexton says Bryant has been interviewed but he can't release details.

The U.S. Coast Guard says rescue crews are searching an area 10 nautical miles off of Bulls Bay for the missing jet and its pilot. An HH-65C Dolphin helicopter, Coast Guard Cutter Yellowfin and a small Coast Guard boat are assisting in the search.

The night operations allow pilots to fly with night vision equipment and practice tactics critical to surviving in combat.

The F-16 jets, dubbed Fighting Falcons, are used to protect troops on the ground or battle other aircraft in air-to-air encounters.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Bobby Nash says a cutter Yellowfin from Charleston, a helicopter from Savannah, GA, and a C-130 airplane from Clearwater, FL, are searching Friday morning.

Copyright 2009 WMBF News. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.