NORFOLK, Va. - Two Air National Guard fighter jets collided midair, forcing one of the pilots to eject into the sea and be rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter a few hours later off the Virginia coast, officials said Friday.
The other pilot involved in the collision was able to fly back to Joint Base Andrews, Md. Both jets were from the 113th Wing D.C. Air National Guard and were on a routine training mission Thursday night when the collision happened about 35 miles southeast of Chincoteague on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
The Coast Guard said the pilot of the jet who was rescued at sea early Friday is in good condition.
"We are extremely fortunate to have lost only metal, and not the life of one of our Airmen," Brig. Gen. Marc Sasseville, 113th Wing commander, said in a statement. "I wish a speedy recover to our injured pilot."
The Coast Guard said it was alerted to the pilot's ditching by a distress signal from his ejection seat at about 10:30 p.m. Two other Air Force planes that were taking in part in the training remained in the area and helped guide Coast Guard rescuers to the downed pilot, said Petty Officer David Weydert, a spokesman for the Coast Guard's 5th District in Portsmouth, Va.
"One of the F-16s that stayed on scene was in communication with the downed pilot and helped relay information to our helicopter," he said.
The pilot was pulled from the water by a rescue crew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter that was based at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C. It was faster to send the helicopter instead of a small boat from Chincoteague, Weydert said.
At the time of the rescue, seas in the area were about 4 feet high, and storms were visible in the distance.
Weydert said the downed pilot was able to light a rescue flare to become more visible to the search and rescue crew. The 113th Wing said the downed pilot was awaiting rescue crews in a life raft.
"The military has some of the best and most highly-trained people in the world, which reduced the potential magnitude of this incident," Sasseville said.
The Air National Guard said the cause of the collision is under investigation. It has not released the names of the pilots involved.