The video below, shot from both the flight-deck’s PLAT camera and from the carrier’s island super-structure, depicts a March 18 landing mishap in terrifying fashion. The event occurred aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower while operating off the eastern seaboard.
Upon landing, the E-2C Hawkeye caught one of the cross-deck pendants, more commonly known as “wires” or “cables.” The cable then came loose from its port side seating and whipped through the air toward the carrier’s superstructure. Eight of the Eisenhower’s crew were injured in the incident, some of them very seriously. Amazingly, nobody was killed.
Although the E-2 Hawkeye is slowed as it advanced down the carrier’s landing area, it was nowhere near stopping. As a result, the aircraft careened off the angled deck, diving toward the ocean below. Amazingly, the crew was able to get the aircraft back into the air—even after disappearing entirely from view.
There was zero margin for survival in this scenario, and according to one sailor quoted by the Navy Times "It (the E-2) came back, but it had friggin' salt water on the bottom of it!”
The Hawkeye returned safely to NAS Norfolk following the incident, although the crew was very shaken up which is understandable considering they probably thought they were about to die. Keep in mind the E-2 does not have ejection seats for its pilots nor for its radar controllers. Hawkeye crews are a brave breed indeed.
According to WAVY.com, an inquiry into the mishap found that the sailors aboard the “Ike” didn’t follow procedures to troubleshoot the arresting gear, with one and potentially two critical steps being missed. Yet at the same time, the mistakes were not necessarily negligent according to the report:
“Based upon their training, the sailors reasonably believed they had properly and conscientiously completed troubleshooting procedure… Phenomenal airmanship by the E-2 mishap aircrew prevented any casualties among the aircrew and the loss of the aircraft, while the quick response by flight deck and medical personnel facilitated timely medical treatment and evacuation of the injured personnel.” You can read the whole report here.
Cross-deck pendants are replaced regularly after a prescribed number of arrestments. As such breaks are very rare, but when they do happen they can be incredibly dangerous, sending the cable whipping across the deck at speeds capable of cutting a sailor nearly in half. The Virginia Pilot states that before this incident there had been just three arresting-gear related deaths and 12 major injuries since 1980.
The amazing video below shows an F/A-18 Hornet that suffered a cable snap on landing. The pilot ejected just as the jet was about to roll of the deck but maybe the most amazing thing is the yellow shirt’s seemingly Jedi-like intuition to jump over the speeding cable, not once, but twice, and all with his back turned!
It is said that life on a carrier’s deck is like living in controlled chaos, and these videos support that claim. It’s a dangerous business indeed.
Contact the author Tyler@thedrive.com