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Pilot safe after jet catches fire on Navy carrier


SAN DIEGO >> The engine of a jet fighter caught fire in the air over an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, but sailors quickly doused the flames after it touched down and the pilot escaped unharmed, the Navy said Thursday.

The fire on the USS Carl Vinson on Monday was the second involving an F/A-18C Hornet aboard an aircraft carrier in less than a month. Authorities did not immediately indicate whether the causes might be related.

The aircraft on the Vinson had undergone routine maintenance and was making a “touch-and-go” check flight, Lt. Cmdr. Erik Reynolds, a spokesman, said in a satellite call to media Thursday.

The twin-engine plane landed, immediately took off again and was in the air when one engine caught fire, according to sailors who handled the emergency.

“A flame basically came from the back of the Hornet,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Michael Flosi.

The pilot returned to the deck with one engine, and the crash crew used a fire retardant foam to douse the flames in about 2 1/2 minutes. The pilot then left the cockpit without injury.

The rear of the plane was damaged.

“If it would have spread to the fuel tanks, this fire would have spread much larger than it was,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Chief Benjamin Bilyeu, the crash team’s chief petty officer.

He attributed the fast work handling the blaze to constant, daily training.

The Vinson is home-ported in San Diego. It is on deployment to support U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since arriving in the area on Jan. 31, its planes have made 1,060 sorties.

“It’s a very demanding schedule. It’s constant and ongoing daily, maintenance,” Lt. Karl Thomsen said.

There was no immediate word on how badly the Hornet was damaged.

Another Hornet sustained at least $1 million damage when its engine caught fire on March 30 aboard the USS John C. Stennis during a training exercise about 100 miles off the San Diego coast.

The jet was just 10 seconds from being launched when its right engine exploded, hurling flames and parts through the air. 

Eight sailors, a Marine and two civilians were injured, including one sailor who suffered a broken leg.

The Navy has said debris in the engine is the suspected cause of that fire.


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