PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — An F-16C pilot whose jet crashed Tuesday morning off the west coast of the Korean peninsula was reported in good condition after spending almost an hour in frigid waters before being rescued.

The single-seat plane, based at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, crashed during what the Air Force termed a routine training mission. The crash occurred about 9:30 a.m., roughly 20 miles west of the coastal base.

The pilot ejected safely and spent about 55 minutes in the water before a South Korean air force rescue helicopter arrived and hoisted him to safety. Water temperature was about 41 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday morning, according to Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing, also known as the Wolf Pack.

The pilot’s name was being withheld Tuesday evening until his relatives are notified, a wing spokeswoman said. He is a member of the wing’s 35th Fighter Squadron.

His South Korean rescuers were from the 6th Search and Rescue Team in Cheongju. The unit dispatched two helicopters — an HH-47 and an HH-60 — with dozens of search-and-rescue personnel aboard, said South Korean air force 1st Lt. Oh Seo-ung.

Once over the crash scene area, the South Koreans searched about 15 minutes before locating and pulling the pilot from the sea, Oh said.

The helicopter bearing the pilot arrived at Kunsan Air Base around 10:50 a.m. and the pilot was taken to the 8th Medical Group clinic, Oh said.

The South Korean unit was the same one that in September 2003 rescued another Kunsan pilot who crashed in the West Sea, which lies between South Korea and China. That pilot, Capt. Kevin Dydyk, also with the 35th Fighter Squadron, also was flying an F-16C when he went down about 56.5 miles southwest of the base.

“We are very happy and fortunate that a U.S. Air Force pilot was not injured and safely rescued,” Oh said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

The cause of the crash is under investigation, the wing stated in a news release issued Tuesday evening.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

Recent crashes involving F-16s

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Tuesday’s crash of a U.S. Air Force F-16C fighter jet off South Korea’s west coast was the first U.S. F-16 crash in the Pacific theater since Sept. 2003 and the sixth since November 2000:

Sept. 9, 2003: A 35th Fighter Squadron F-16C crashed into the West Sea during a training mission. A South Korean air force team retrieved the pilot, who was reported in good condition.

May 29, 2003: A 36th Fighter Squadron F-16 crashed just after takeoff from Osan Air Base, South Korea. The pilot ejected safely. An employee of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service was injured slightly when struck by falling aircraft debris.

April 15, 2002: A 35th Fighter Wing F-16C flown by Maj. Chad Miller crashed into the Sea of Japan off Aomori Prefecture. He was rescued after the crash, which occurred some 600 feet off the town of Fukaura. Investigators said the crash was the result of engine failure caused when a cracked high-pressure turbine blade splintered.

April 3, 2001: A 13th Fighter Squadron F-16CJ plunged into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan and east of Ripsaw Gunnery Range. 1st Lt. Mark Hadley ejected safely and was rescued by elements of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces.

Nov. 13, 2000: Two 14th Fighter Squadron F-16CJs collided in mid-air west of Hokkaido, Japan, during Operation Keen Sword exercises. Col. Michael Lepper, 35th Operations Group commander, ejected from his aircraft. Capt. Warren B. Sneed was pronounced lost at sea. Air Force investigators cited both pilots for the accident.

From Stripes reports

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