The 115th Fighter Wing announced Dec. 10 that the F-16 pilot, missing since his jet crashed late Dec. 8, has died.
The pilot was flying a routine training mission when the F-16 crashed around 8 p.m. local time in the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. USAF aircraft, U.S. Coast Guard ships, and local emergency crews searched by air, land, and water for the missing pilot.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time,” 115th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Bart Van Roo said in a release. “Today is a day for mourning. The 115th Fighter Wing and the entire Wisconsin National Guard stands with the pilot’s family as we grieve the loss of a great Airman and patriot.”
The name of the pilot is being withheld, pending next of kin notification. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The sortie was part of a series of night flying training missions scheduled to run from Dec. 7-10.
“We are an extremely close knit group at the fighter wing, the loss of one of our own brings immeasurable sadness to every member of our organization,” Van Roo said.
The crash is the latest of a series of F-16 crashes in 2020. In June, 1st Lt. David Schmitz was killed when his F-16CM crashed at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., during his first-ever nighttime training mission. Accident investigators found that pilot error and a series of ejection seat malfunctions caused that fatal crash. In July, an F-16 Viper assigned to the 49th Wing at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., crashed while landing, but the pilot in that incident successfully ejected.
The 54th Fighter Group temporarily paused flight operations after the July mishap, but found no signs of fleet-wide issues.
The 115th Fighter Wing, based at Truax Field near Madison, is set to to start flying F-35s in 2023.