Last Thursday night two F-16 jets collided in mid-air during a night time training exercise. One of the jets was damaged but managed to limp home and land at the base. The other went missing.
After a three day search and a careful analysis of the surviving jet it was determined that the second pilot very likely died at the moment of the collision. It seems that the first aircraft struck the canopy (cockpit) of the second, killing the pilot instantly.
That second pilot, Capt. Nicolas Giglio, was a very dear friend of mine.
I still can’t get my mind around it; I am still reeling as are hundreds of others who knew Nick and loved him as a brother and a friend.
He was a young man, 33 years old. He is survived by his wife Leigh and their two children, a 15 month old daughter and a son due to arrive in this world sometime next February.
We first met Nick and Leigh when we lived in Wichita Falls. He was our bible study leader and at the time he was an Instructor Pilot at Sheppard Air Force Base, where he was teaching other young cadets to fly. He spent his working hours doing what he loved.
I remember asking Nick if he’d always wanted to be a pilot.
“Always, that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I remember when I made the decision. My Dad took me to an air show and we saw the jets up close for the first time. I was totally hooked. I wanted to fly.”
It’s not easy to get into the pilot training program. Naturally, there’s lots of people that want the same thing, so it’s very competitive. And, the Air Force does a good job of weeding out all but the very best. Every pilot I had the privilege of knowing during the years we lived in WF was remarkable for his or her maturity and sense of self.
(I’ve written a more extensive tribute, but I’ve cut it short for the blog)
It’s the funny things that make a man likeable and Nick always seemed to have a ready supply of funny comments to make. The last time we “saw” him was on a Skype call last month. Lisa was chatting with Leigh who was taking care of the baby.
“Where’s Nick?” I said.
“He’s outside building a fence for the dogs.”
“Well tell him to come inside and say hello.”
She went to the door and told him we were on the line. In a minute she came back and said, “He said he’s not coming in because he doesn’t feel like taking off his boots.”
I laughed and shook my head in disbelief. But, in a minute he was there, smiling at us.
I’ll never forget that happy look on his face.
He died with those boots on, doing the thing he loved best.
He was a man who was easy to love, and I loved him and will miss him dearly.