Navy: 8 sailors aboard USS Eisenhower injured when cable breaks during E-2C Hawkeye landing

By Courtney Mabeus and Brock Vergakis
The Virginian-Pilot


Eight sailors working on the flight deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower were injured Friday when a cable used to catch a landing aircraft’s tailhook broke, according to the Navy.

Four of the sailors were flown by helicopter to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening, while two were taken to Portsmouth Naval Medical Center. Norfolk General has the only Level 1 trauma center in the region and handles the most severe injuries. When reached Friday night, Mike Maus, a Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman, said the injured sailors were stable.

Two sailors were treated aboard the carrier, which is operating off the coast of Virginia in preparation for an upcoming deployment. The Navy said in a statement it would not release the names of the injured. The extent of the sailors’ injuries and what roles they were performing at the time of the incident were not available.

The Navy said the aircraft attempting to land, an E-2C Hawkeye, was able to regain flight and returned safely to its base at Norfolk Naval Station. None of the plane’s crew was injured, according to the Navy.

The Hawkeye is an early warning, turboprop aircraft used for command and control. It is recognizable by its 24-foot-diameter radar rotodome , a large disc attached to its upper fuselage.
Arresting cables are used to slow and stop an aircraft when it lands on a carrier. Each is placed at 20-foot intervals. An aircraft’s tailhook catches a cable to help it stop safely.

Maus said the cable is designed to stretch. In Friday’s case, the cable “just came apart.”

Maus said he did not know how many takeoffs and landings the cable had undergone before the malfunction, or how old the arresting gear is on the Eisenhower.
An accident investigation board will work to determine answers, he said.

“All arresting gear cables can be used for a specific number of landings, and it is very carefully tracked,” Maus said.

No other aircraft was damaged, said Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a Navy Air Force Atlantic spokesman. Carrier flight decks are considered among the most dangerous working environments, but Kafka could not recall any similar incidents that had occurred on a Norfolk-based vessel since 2003. Eight people were injured in September that year when an arresting cable broke during an F/A-18 Hornet landing on the USS George Washington. As the cable snapped back, it struck a flight deck coordinator in the head, seriously injuring him. The jet fell into the Atlantic.

The Virginian-Pilot reported two days after that incident that there had been three arresting-gear related deaths and 12 major injuries since 1980.

Six people were injured in 2005, two seriously, when an F/A-18F Super Hornet snapped an arresting cable in two places while it was landing on the USS Kitty Hawk, according to Stars and Stripes.

The Eisenhower left Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth in August, returning to sea for the first time in more than two years after going through a longer-than-expected maintenance period.

The 40-year-old ship required 50 percent more maintenance than planned, including extra work on numerous ship systems, such as the shafts, rudders and distilling units.

It was the longest and most comprehensive carrier overhaul ever completed at one of the Navy’s public shipyards.

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is expected to replace the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in the Middle East later this summer.

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