F-16 jet, Cessna plane collide over South Carolina; 2 dead

BLACKEAGLE

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By Greg Botelho, Shawn Nottingham and Lauriel Cleveland, CNN

Updated 0038 GMT (0738 HKT) July 8, 2015



(CNN)An Air Force F-16 fighter jet and a small private airplane collided Tuesday over South Carolina, killing two people aboard the civilian aircraft and prompting the military pilot to eject, authorities said.

Someone called 911 shortly after 11 a.m. to report the collision about 30 miles north of Charleston near Lewisfield Planation in Berkeley County, county spokesman Michael Mule said. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters indicated the aircraft hit each other a little farther south, about 11 miles from Charleston.

The F-16 was on an instrument-training mission into Joint Base Charleston.

"All the facts at this point indicate that the pilot was talking to air traffic control ... when the accident occurred," said Col. Stephen Jost, commander of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, where the pilot is based.

An investigation is underway into the events leading up to the collision, including why the planes were so close to each other.

The F-16's pilot, Maj. Aaron Johnson, safely ejected, was picked up and transported to a hospital, authorities said.

"From what I understand, he seemed to be in pretty good shape," Berkeley County Rescue Squad Chief Bill Salisbury said.

The FAA identified the small private plane as a Cessna 150, which broke up considerably after the collision. No one on the ground was hurt by falling debris, which Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis said fell largely in "a remote, marshy area."

The National Transportation Safety Board said two people aboard the Cessna died. They were not identified and the remains have not been found.

"We are in investigative mode trying to find out who that plane belonged to and who was on board," Salisbury told reporters. "... We have debris of the small plane scattered over a large area, and part of it is in a rice field."

Capt. Robert McCullough of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said at least part of the Cessna went into the Cooper River, while the F-16 crashed in Berkeley County. CNN affiliate WCBD showed a picture of what appeared to be a jet engine lying next to a trailer in that area.


"The main object now is to locate the people and bring them back home to the families," Salisbury said.

At least 20 different agencies on the local, federal and state level are actively searching the crash site. The search area from where the crash occurred to where the military aircraft was found is 7.3 miles.

CNN's Rene Marsh and Saran Aarthun contributed to this report.
F-16 jet, Cessna airplane collide over South Carolina - CNN.com
 
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The really needs to be a thorough investigation into this. How a military jet can just slam into the broadside of a civilian aircraft seriously raises questions as to what exactly happened up there and why the Cessna wasn't picked up on either ground control radar or the F-16's own radar.
 
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I posted a thread about this yesterday. There really is no mystery as to how they could collide. Jets go places all the time, light aircraft do not file flight plans. They will end up in the same airspace and depend largely on the pilots visually identifying each other which is notoriously difficult. There is a good discussion of this here: Berkeley County Mid-Air Collision - The Atlantic

The jet may well have detected the Cessna but did not know it was going to suddenly decide to climb sharply. The Cessna in all likelihood never detected the jet. Under the rules of the air as they currently exists, these things can just happen. Which is no consolation to the family of the deceased, whose bodies have yet to be found: Bodies from Cessna obliterated by F-16 in S.C. sought - CBS News
 
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So it seems like it's just one of those once in a million type of accidents then? It still befuddles me as to how this can happen in this day and age with radars and all sorts of detection tech but I suppose it's no substitute for human quick decisions.

Still, it's very sad for the families of the two people on board the Cessna and lucky that the F-16 pilot was able to get out of it OK.