Crews Search for Missing F-16, Pilot

An F-16 assigned to the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall AFB, Fla., is missing and is believed to have crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, according to a base release. The aircraft was conducting a “routine training mission” when the base lost contact with the pilot just after 9 a.m. Thursday. “Aircraft and rescue forces were immediately dispatched to the missing jet’s last known location,” but as of Thursday evening neither the aircraft nor the pilot had been found. “The rescue of our airman is our top priority,” said Col. Mark O’Laughlin, 325th Fighter Wing vice commander, in the release. “We want to assure the family and friends of the missing pilot that we are doing everything we can for this effort.” The incident comes less than a month after two Oklahoma Air National Guard F-16Cs collided over Kansas, forcing one pilot to eject. The second pilot was able to recover the aircraft and fly back to base. An F-15D Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, also crashed in early October. The pilot safely ejected and no one was seriously injured, but that incident came on the heels of a fatal Aug. 27 F-15C crash that claimed the life of Air National Guard pilot Lt. Col. Morris “Moose” Fontenot.