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United States Navy VFA‑151 NAS
North Island, CA

F/A‑18C

 NE303

26th August 2004

Lt. Jason Doyle Walker
AMEND IN OWN WORDS

A Navy jet that crashed into San Diego Bay on Thursday night had been diverted to North Island Naval Air Station because it was running low on fuel while practicing aircraft carrier landings offshore, the Navy said yesterday.

The pilot of the aircraft, an F/A-18C Hornet, had been trying to land on the carrier Abraham Lincoln before he was ordered to change course for the Coronado airfield, said Lt. Kim Marks, 3rd Fleet spokeswoman.

Upon landing, the pilot was unable to stop the jet, and it rolled past the end of the runway and into the bay. Lt. Jason Doyle Walker ejected safely, and San Diego Harbor Police pulled him from the water uninjured about 20 minutes later.

Walker reportedly told rescuers that his brakes failed upon landing.

An investigation is under way.

About 9 p.m. yesterday, the jet was hoisted in one piece from the water, said Coronado naval base spokesman Steve Fiebing.

The Hornet had rested in shallow water, its tail and the fuselage's upper half above the water. The Navy had placed a floating boom around the aircraft to contain any leaking fuel. Armed security boats guarded the plane yesterday and kept sightseers at a distance.

The jet probably will be carted a few hundred yards away to North Island's Naval Aviation Depot, which is the Navy's major repair center for Hornets.

A few more details about the crash were available.

The jet is a single-seat strike fighter from Squadron VFA-151, based at Lemoore Naval Air Station near Fresno.

The squadron was conducting routine carrier qualifications off Southern California. To maintain their proficiency for landing on carriers, pilots must regularly practice landings in which a metal tailhook snags wires stretched across the flight deck.

For safety reasons, the practices are conducted close to airfields so pilots having problems can make an emergency landing.

Procedure calls for aircraft to be diverted to the nearest airfield as a precaution whenever fuel tanks get low, Marks said.

The Hornet flew a routine approach course, passing over the beach near the Hotel del Coronado and landing on the airfield's northwest-pointing runway, Fiebing said.

The jet careened off the end of the runway and across the base's Moffett Road, then plunged into the bay, coming to a stop about 100 feet from shore.

Although the air base has an emergency arresting wire to halt wayward aircraft, Fiebing said he didn't know whether the system was operating Thursday night or if the Hornet had its tailhook extended.

The Hornet was the 13th F/A-18 jet since October 2003 involved in an accident that caused a death or serious damage to the jet.

Five Marine Corps aviators have been killed in four Hornet crashes during that time, according to Naval Safety Center records. There have been no Navy Hornet deaths.

James W. Crawley: (619) 542-4559; jim.crawley@uniontrib.com

 


                                                                                        SignOn San Diego

The $40 million F/A-18C Hornet jet that crashed into San Diego Bay while landing at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado was hoisted out of the water on Friday night.