A US Navy plane almost plunged into the sea after a device designed to stop the plane failed as it landed on an aircraft carrier. An absolutely frightening scene aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was captured on camera providing visual evidence of an incident that resulted in eight sailors suffering injuries in March. As you can see in the clip, the aircraft lands on the flight deck only to keep moving forward beyond the snapped cable until it falls out of view. Thankfully, the plane reemerges at the end of the clip managing to regain speed and altitude. It would later land safely at Norfolk Naval Station.
A video shows the cable, stretched across the deck, slow down the E-2C Hawkeye plane as it prepares to land on the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower. But then the wire swiftly breaks from the aircraft's tail hook and the plane continues down the flight deck before it frighteningly disappears.
According to a Navy report obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through a Freedom of Information Act request, maintenance personnel missed at least one and possibly two “critical steps” while working on an engine that helps operate the carrier flight deck’s cables, which are called cross deck pendants, after a previous landing. As a result, the engine failed to slow the aircraft, instead causing the pendant to break “at or near” the Hawkeye’s tailhook.
Investigators found that the crew, which were troubleshooting a fault code in the engine from a previous landing, were using an approved Navy procedure that wasn't 'user friendly'. The three-person crew aboard the Hawkeye 'heard the tailhook re-contact the flight deck and felt a shudder' as the wire broke. They knew something was wrong when the Hawkeye continued down the flight deck, the report states. The pilots managed to land the Hawkeye, which was undamaged, at Naval Station Norfolk. They are credited in the report for their 'phenomenal airmanship'. A sailor on the scene said the incident left the pilots completely 'shaken up'. 'One of them, you could tell it messed him up,' the sailor said. 'Because they thought they were going to die.'
It was the first time in more than 10 years since a cable had broken on a carrier deck, said Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Cmdr Mike Kafka.