Pilot killed in Nevada Air Force crash mournedLAS VEGAS (AP) — An Air Force pilot who died in a jet crash in the Nevada desert during a training exercise this week was an experienced pilot with more than 1,200 flight hours, military officials said Friday.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — An Air Force pilot who died in a jet crash in the Nevada desert during a training exercise this week was an experienced pilot with more than 1,200 flight hours, military officials said Friday.
Capt. Eric Ziegler, 30, was an operational test and evaluation instructor pilot with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base. Nellis will hold a private memorial service in his honor Tuesday.
Ziegler was married with a young daughter. He was a native of West Fargo, N.D. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2003 and earned a master's degree in 2010. He recently was selected to attend the elite U.S. Air Force Weapons School.
“Words can't express how much we'll miss Eric,” Lt. Col. Ryan Suttlemyre said in a statement. “He was a special friend, a phenomenal husband and father, and a terrific aviator and officer. Our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time.”
Family members told Air Force officials they wanted as much privacy from the media as possible and did not want to be contacted, photographed, filmed or interviewed.
“Eric was a man of character and faith who deeply loved his family as well as flying,” family members said in a shared, unsigned statement. “His sense of humor, spontaneity, faith, zest for life, love of family and country are the hallmarks of his personality. He was a true son of the United States.”
Ziegler previously was stationed in Korea and Germany.
He was participating in a combat training mission within military airspace roughly 120 miles north of Las Vegas when the jet crashed Tuesday on Bureau of Land Management property. The cause of the crash, which happened about 20 miles west of Caliente, was under investigation.
The plane involved was the type used by the Air Force's aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds. The single-seat F-16C Fighting Falcon developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. costs $18.8 million to produce and can travel up to 1,500 mph.
Air and ground search teams probed the desert for Ziegler on Wednesday but did not locate his body.
A 2008 accident killed a Nellis airman after he went into a violent spin while attempting a basic turn maneuver at about 350 mph in an F-15 jet.
Nellis, which trains pilots in military flight and combat, frequently sends jets soaring over empty Nevada desert.
“Capt. Ziegler represents the best of the men and women of Nellis Air Force base,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Las Vegas in a statement. “I thank him for his selfless service to our country.”