Fatal F-16 crash brings back memories for retired fighter pilot - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Fatal F-16 crash brings back memories for retired fighter pilot

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SHAW AFB, SC (WIS) - Shaw Air Force Base officials say they have lost hope that Capt. Nicholas Giglio survived last week's collision with another F-16. Now the investigation into why the crash happened is underway.

Out of the F-16 cockpit for years now, retired Lt. Colonel Jim Bigham was still deeply moved when he heard a Shaw pilot died in a crash last week.

"It never gets any easier, because it's like losing a family member," Bigham said. "No matter what, even if you didn't know them personally, as a fellow fighter pilot, you always know and it immediately pulls back in your mind what happened the last time that happened to someone close to you."

Giglio was flying a night training mission when his plane collided with another F-16. Rescue crews have been searching the waters ever since, but haven't found anything.

"I have had the experience of losing a close friend whose wife was pregnant at the time," continued Bigham. "And you deal with that and the small child, knowing they've now lost their father."

Bigham knows all about how crash investigations go. He was the lead man at Shaw the last time a pilot died.

In July 2001, a pilot ejected from the plane but died before rescue teams could get to him. Bigham says they learned from that crash, and they will also learn from this one.

"It's usually, typically pilot error," said Bigham. "That doesn't mean they weren't doing the best they could. What they will be trying to figure out is what they can do to mitigate that danger in the future."

Bigham says night training missions like the one Giglio was flying on are important.

"With those night vision goggles we will pull up within three or four feet of another airplane at night," said Bigham. "Lights out for what you can see with the visible eye. And I can tell you what kind of pen he's got in his pocket. You can see that well with them."

As important as the investigation into what went wrong is, Bigham says the healing period for the family and squadron is just as crucial.

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