Debris found, search continues for downed F-16 pilot off Charleston coast

By Live 5 News Staff email | twitter

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, SC (WCSC) - Searchers found debris and an oil slick but not the pilot of a missing F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from the 20th Fighter Wing. The U.S. Coast Guard is still searching for Capt. Nicholas Giglio. According to Shaw commander Col. Joseph Guastella, Giglio has been a fighter pilot for the last 18 months.

"We presume there's a pilot who is in the water and needs to be rescued," Capt. Michael McAllister, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Charleston, said during a press conference Friday. The Coast Guard has been searching since last night and says they will continue to do so as long as the weather allows. The search has expanded from 750 to 1,300 square miles.

Giglio's jet went down after it collided with a second F-16 during night training maneuvers 40 miles east of Folly Beach, according to a press release from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. The second jet was piloted by Capt. Lee Bryant. He landed at Charleston Air Force Base and is unharmed.

The single-seat planes were on a night training mission at roughly 19,000 feet Thursday when they collided at about 8:30 pm, said Senior Master Sgt. Brad Fallin with Shaw's public affairs office.

The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, aircraft from Charleston AFB, law enforcement and commercial shippers are still searching for Giglio. A spokesman for Charleston AFB said a team from Shaw was serving as the lead investigative unit, but the Coast Guard was devoting resources to the recovery effort.

Neither the locator beacon attached to the seat or to Giglio has been activated, which could mean there was an equipment malfunction or that there was no ejection, said McAllister.

The Coast Guard received reports last night of an oil sheen in the water as well as of a small amount of debris, but did not provide additional 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, C-130 fixed wing aircraft and two small Coast Guard boats are assisting in the search.

A board of officers is investigating the accident.  As soon as additional details become available, they will be released.

Quick facts about the F-16 Falcon:

Primary Function: Multirole fighter
Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Power Plant: F-16C/D: one Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129
Thrust: F-16C/D, 27,000 pounds
Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches (9.8 meters)
Length: 49 feet, 5 inches (14.8 meters)
Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)
Weight: 19,700 pounds without fuel (8,936 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 37,500 pounds (16,875 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 7,000 pounds internal (3,175 kilograms); typical capacity, 12,000 pounds with two external tanks (5443 kilograms)
Payload: Two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9 and 1,040-gallon external tanks
Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)
Range: More than 2,002 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)
Ceiling: Above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
Armament: One M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon with 500 rounds; external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods
Crew: F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two
Unit cost: F-16A/B , $14.6 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars); F-16C/D,$18.8 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Initial operating capability: F-16A, January 1979; F-16C/D Block 25-32, 1981;
F-16C/D Block 40-42, 1989; and F-16C/D Block 50-52, 1994
Inventory: Total force, F-16C/D, 1,280

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