Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
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Accident diverted: Cable grabs F-18 jet as it lands

A pilot was able to walk away uninjured Saturday after his fighter jet made a hard landing at Boca Chica Field.

A single-seater F/A-18E Super Hornet was having difficulty lowering one part of its landing gear, said Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West spokeswoman Trice Denny.

The pilot caught the jet on an arresting gear cable like those commonly seen on aircraft carriers used to keep planes on the flight deck.

"He (pilot) tail-hooked the arresting cable, he came to stop and no one was hurt," Denny said.

The cable brought the fighter jet to a quick stop and kept it on the runway as it is designed to do, Denny said.

"They're only used for emergencies or for safety reasons," she added.

Whether the problem was mechanical or human error is still under investigation.

The pilot is with Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106), also known as the Gladiators, one of the regular squadrons often training out of Boca Chica Field.

The squadron is headquartered at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia but its frequent visits to NAS Key West have made it a permanent fixture. The squadron's 1,200 personnel and 120 aircraft have a maintenance detachment at Boca Chica Field.

The Gladiators are in town as part of their normal fleet training.

On April 6, an F/A-18D assigned with the Gladiators crashed into an apartment complex in Virginia Beach, Va. Both pilots ejected and there were no fatalities.

Nearly 500 sailors attached to squadrons in Carrier Air Wing 17 at NAS Key West are preparing for deployment at sea. The training includes the E2-Hawkeye, F/A-18C Hornet and the F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft.

The incident Saturday afternoon did not affect training schedules, Denny said.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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