Decision on salvage of downed F-16C is pending
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — The U.S. Air Force in South Korea said it would consult South Korean maritime police on whether to try to salvage the F-16C fighter that crashed in the West Sea on Tuesday.
The pilot ejected safely and later was flown back to Kunsan Air Base, where he was treated at the base medical clinic then released Tuesday night, officials at Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing said Wednesday.
Wing officials identified the pilot as Capt. Donald Siegmund, of the 35th Fighter Squadron. The squadron is part of the 8th Fighter Wing, also known as the Wolf Pack.
Siegmund’s plane crashed around 9:30 a.m. about 20 miles from coastal Kunsan Air Base while on what the Air Force said was a routine training mission.
“We are currently working with the Korean maritime police to assess the situation and determine if salvage operations can be conducted,” said Capt. Richard Komurek, the wing’s chief spokesman.
A decision was expected by Friday, he said.
Wing officials suspect the plane is under about 165 feet of water, Komurek said.
Siegmund spent about 55 minutes in the water before a South Korean air force rescue helicopter dispatched to the scene found and lifted him to safety. The water temperature was about 41 degrees Tuesday morning, wing officials said.
“He is actually doing very well considering that he ejected from an F-16 aircraft yesterday and spent some time out in the cold sea before he was rescued,” Komurek said.
Siegmund was wearing an anti-exposure suit when he took off from Kunsan on Tuesday. The special-fabric suit, to be worn under regular flight suits, is designed to prolong survival in cold conditions.
“They wear that whenever the temperature is less than 60 degrees,” Komurek said. “Our weather personnel track the air temperature and the water temperature daily, so they dress appropriately.”