d. 28 June 2011
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) — Air Force officials have identified the pilot involved in an aircraft mishap near Caliente, Nev., June 28 as Capt. Eric Ziegler, 30, an operational test and evaluation instructor pilot with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron here.
Brig. Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of the 57th Wing, announced June 30 that search and rescue teams had found conclusive evidence that Captain Ziegler did not survive when his F-16C Fighting Falcon crashed during a combat training exercise. The mishap occurred on Bureau of Land Management property approximately 20 miles west of Caliente while the aircraft was operating in military airspace managed by Nevada Test and Training Range personnel.
A native of West Fargo, N.D., Ziegler was a 1999 graduate of West Fargo High School.
He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2003 and earned a master’s degree in 2010. Ziegler was an experienced pilot with more than 1,200 flight hours, primarily in the F-16. He had operational assignments at Kunsan Air Base, Korea; Spangdahlem AB, Germany; and Nellis AFB. During those assignments, he flew more than 300 combat hours on three deployments. His decorations include the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters and an Aerial Achievement Medal. Ziegler also had recently been selected to attend the elite U.S. Air Force Weapons School.
“Words can’t express how much we’ll miss Eric,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Suttlemyre, the 422 TES commander. “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.”
Ziegler’s family has requested privacy, but said the following in a prepared family statement:
“Eric was a man of character and faith who deeply loved his family as well as flying. 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.”
An investigation into the accident began almost immediately.
“For the next several weeks, a trained investigation board will focus its exclusive efforts on collecting and protecting evidence from the scene and gathering and analyzing all relevant data with the specific purpose of determining the cause so we may prevent future mishaps,” O’Shaughnessy said. “The safety of the local community and our Airmen is my top priority.”
Click HERE to read testimonials to Eric at F-16.net.