Navy pilots survive midair collision in Nevada

RENO, Nev. - Two Navy pilots were counting their blessings Saturday after escaping serious injury when their jets collided east of here.

Lts. Cam Hansen and Joe Krasinski were taking part in a training mission over Smith Creek Valley near Fallon Naval Air Station when their F/A-18 Hornets collided Friday night.

They were released after treatment for minor injuries at the base's medical clinic. They're assigned to units based at the Oceana, Va., Naval Air Station, but are at Fallon as part of their regular training.

Fallon spokeswoman Anne McMillin said Krasinski was able to land safely, even though the collision sheared three feet off his aircraft's right wing, and damaged its fuselage, vertical stabilizers and horizontal flaps.

Hansen ejected and parachuted to the ground. His jet crashed.

''It's very, very fortunate that both these gentlemen survived that incident. Another couple of inches and this could have been much worse,'' McMillin said.

''It was very good flying on the part of Lt. Krasinski, who was able to fly a severely damaged aircraft back to Fallon and land it. I can't imagine it would be easy.''

The collision occurred about 115 miles east of Reno and 55 miles east of the Fallon base.

The crash and other recent crashes involving the military's Hornet jets are under investigation.

A week ago, an F/A-18C Hornet crashed in the ocean off San Diego during training from an aircraft carrier. Debris from the plane was found, but the pilot was presumed dead.

In September, a Navy pilot was killed when his F/A-18C Hornet crashed in the Persian Gulf, and two Marine Corps. aviators died after their F/A-18D Hornet hit another over the Arizona desert.

At least two other midair collisions involving military aircraft have occurred in Nevada over the last 16 months.

In August, two pilots escaped serious injury when their F-16s apparently nipped each other while on a training exercise out of Nellis Air Force Base. One jet crashed and the other landed safely.

In June 1999, two pilots escaped serious injury when their F-15C Eagles from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., collided in midair over Lincoln County.

Investigators will examine a device on Krasinski's aircraft that electronically recorded all flight aspects, including the altitude, angle of attack and speed.

''We can figure out what happened from this information,'' McMillin said.

She said base officials were lending emotional support to the two pilots.

''They both essentially walked away from it, but are banged up and a little sore,'' she said. ''They also were emotionally shakened by it.''

Navy officials were unsure of details of the collision.

''I have not seen the tapes so I do not know the nature of the collision, whether it was head-on or if they only bumped each other,'' Lt. William Phillips told the Nevada Appeal.


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