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Two rescued after U.S. plane slips off carrier

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One of the pilots of a plane that slid off the USS Constellation during a landing attempt is carried away after being rescued from the Persian Gulf.

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Two U.S. pilots were rescued from the Persian Gulf after their aircraft slipped from the side of an aircraft carrier. (April 1)
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MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Florida -- A U.S. Navy jet rolled off the side of an aircraft carrier Tuesday after making a successful "arrested landing," the Navy said.

The crew of two aboard the S-3B Viking aircraft ejected from the tanker plane after it swerved off the deck of theUSS Constellation and before it hit the water. Both were rescued by swimmers dropped from a helicopter.

Early indications are that the airplane's brakes or some other mechanics malfunctioned, according to Navy spokesmen.

The aircraft made a successful landing on the carrier with the tailhook on the plane catching one of the arresting cables strung across the landing runway. Usually, the plane would then taxi to the right and park before it's moved below deck on an elevator.

The plane instead rolled to the left and dropped off the side of the ship, catching briefly in the safety netting along the edge of the deck. The delay gave the crew enough time to eject before the aircraft hit the water.

At least one search-and-rescue helicopter is always flying near aircraft carriers during flight operations so that rescue can begin immediately after any accident.

Constellation's last deployment

The S-3 Viking is a twin-engine jet aircraft that is configured to be used as an in-flight refueling tanker, an anti-submarine warfare aircraft or an electronic support aircraft.

Normal safety procedure includes an escort ship trailing behind and alongside the aircraft carrier with an inflatable boat ready to drop into the water with rescue swimmers aboard. The frigate USS Thach performed that role today and reached the two pilots as the helicopter arrived on the scene, a Navy statement says.

This is the first fixed-wing aircraft to be lost during Operation Iraqi Freedom, although helicopters have been lost.

The aircraft was the last of the day to return to the Constellation as flight operations at 5:10 a.m. (local time), the Navy said.

This is the last deployment for the USS Constellation before it is retired from the fleet.


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