The U.S. Coast Guard rescued an Air National Guard pilot who ejected from his plane after it collided with another plane during a training mission Thursday night.
The Coast Guard received a distress signal around 10:30 p.m. Thursday when the pilot's plane went down off the coast of Virginia, near Chincoteague Island. Officials confirmed that two F-16C Falcon jets were involved in a mid-air collision and that one pilot ejected from his plane, while the other was able to fly back to Joint Base Andrews, Md., according to a statement from the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard dispatched a rescue crew in a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, which reached the ejected pilot around 12:30 a.m. Friday. The cause of the collision is under investigation.
"We are extremely fortunate to have lost only metal, and not the life of one of our Airmen," Brig. Gen. Marc Sasseville of the Air National Guard, said in a released statement, according to The Associated Press. "I wish a speedy recovery to our injured pilot."
Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Craig Clapper said in a relased statement that the two planes were involved in a "routine training mission" when the collision occurred.
"Both pilots were transported to a medical facility here on base," Clapper said. "One pilot was released and the other was released to an offsite medical facility for minor injuries."
According to the Air Force website, F-16's are "highly maneuverable" fighter jets that can reach speeds of up to 1,500 mph. The jets were used more than any other aircraft in the Gulf War's Operation Desert Storm and have been used extensively since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Coast Guard officials reported that the pilot was in good condition.
Aviation Survivial Technicial 1st Class Brian Fogle was the rescue swimmer who saved the pilot. He told the Navy Times that the rescue took more than an hour and it was difficult to locate the pilot because of the darkness. Crews on the helicopter spoke with him on a radio and guided him toward the pilot.
Fogle said the Falcon pilot ejected with survival gear, including a one-man raft that he used until rescue crews arrived. Although the pilot appeared to have a broken leg, Fogle told the Navy Times that he seemed "alert, responsive and in somewhat good spirits."
"This is hands-down the most rewarding rescue I've ever done," Fogle said. "I've never had the opportunity to help one of our own military members."