Former Navy pilot Shane Osborn (search), who became a national hero in 2001 when he guided a damaged surveillance plane to a safe landing on a Chinese island, said Wednesday he will seek the Republican nomination for Nebraska state treasurer.

Osborn had been considering a run for the U.S. Senate but said his wife and two young children weighed on his decision to seek a state office instead.

Osborn, 31, will face Republican Treasurer Ron Ross (search) in the May 2006 primary. There are no other announced candidates.

On April 1, 2001, Osborn was flying over the South China Sea (search) when a Chinese fighter plane got too close and the two aircraft collided. Osborn's plane plunged 7,500 feet before he gained control and landed in Chinese territory.

None of the 24 crew members were hurt, but they were held prisoner for a tense 11 days while the U.S. government worked to persuade the Chinese to free them.

When they returned to American soil, they got a flag-waving welcome in Hawaii from a cheering crowd and a brass band playing "God Bless America."

Osborn said he had no qualms about challenging an incumbent Republican.

"That's the great thing about a democracy: People get a choice," he said.

Osborn graduated from high school in Norfolk and received a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1996. He moved to Omaha earlier this year after leaving the Navy and works as an aviation insurance broker.

Ross did not immediately return a call seeking comment. He was director of the state Health and Human Services System when then-Gov. Mike Johanns named him in late 2003 to succeed former Treasurer Lorelee Byrd, who quit amid an investigation into financial irregularities in the office.