Remember this story about the three United States military pilots who somehow averted their E-2C Hawkeye from crashing into the ocean after its arresting cabled snapped from its base on the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower?
It’s clear the quick-thinking, heroic save didn’t go unnoticed by the branch’s higher-ups, because the three service members were awarded the Armed Forces Air Medal recently.
Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Browning, Lt. Cmdr. Kellen Smith and Lt. Matthew Halliwell, part of the Airborne Early Warning Squadron 123 (aka the Screwtops), were the aviators who carried out the life-saving maneuver and accepted the lofty recognition.
This from the Navy Times:
“It all happened in about eight seconds,” said Smith, according to a press release from the Ike. “While we were decelerating we heard a loud snap. When we would normally be coming to a stop, we weren’t. Our years of training kicked in and we reacted on instinct. I slapped back the ditching hatch (Hawkeyes do not have ejection seats) as we cleared the deck and began a deep settle (significant descent). I would guess we were about 10 feet from the water before we lifted back up, but Lt. Smith expertly kept us climbing away. It was a sigh of relief when we were back in the air. It helps to know that at the critical moment, all we practice for this scenario actually works. The experience has made me much more confident in my training.”
The pilots were finishing up a round of carrier landing qualifications in preparation for their deployment on the afternoon of March 18 when the plane hit the fourth landing cable on Ike’s flight deck, dragging the 1 1/12-inch wire down the runway before it snapped and they plunged off the side.
The grave error in procedure, which dealt sailors on the deck serious injury (one mechanic almost lost his leg) and sent the broken cable whipping across the tabletop of the ship, came with some dire consequences for a few of those involved/responsible. Three sailors were disciplined for “improperly troubleshooting the code … which caused it to let out too much wire and fail to absorb the force of the landing Hawkeye.”