“This Is Not A Drill…Plane In The Water”

by Peter T Yeschenko

Some of my USS Kitty Hawk CV-63 shipmates may remember this.

In 1996, I was stationed in USS Kitty Hawk CV-63 home ported out of San Diego. I had reported to the USS Kitty Hawk in January 1996 as the Chief Master-at-Arms and Brig officer.

On Saturday, 24 February we were out at sea doing flight operations off the California coast.

Around noon, I was in the Chief’s mess eating lunch when all of sudden alarms start going off over the 1MC. Everyone stopped doing what they were doing in the Mess and we looked at each other….I was thinking…I don’t recall any drill scheduled for that day, especially since we were conducting flight operations….

All of sudden…we heard “This is not a Drill…plane in the water!”

Everyone in the Chiefs mess cleared out and went to our stations…..One of our EA-6B Prowler crashed into the water 150 miles off the Southern California coast and the plane went down approximately 40 miles from the ship.

The plane was from squadron VAQ-135 which was part of Carrier Air Wing 11.

Two crewmen (both Lt’s) were rescued by helicopter and were examined aboard the ship by the our medical team.

Another crewman, Lcdr Dee was recovered but pronounced dead on board the ship. And the pilot, Lt. Francis, was lost at sea and presumed dead.

After everything was situated and we secured from flight operation, the Chief Corpsman and I carried Lcdr Dee remains below decks into one of the chillers awaiting further transport.

Later that day, they flew the two injured crewmen and Lcdr. Dee remains off the ship to Balboa Naval Hospital. Both of the injured crewmen made a full recovery.

Pacific Fleet Vice Admiral Bennitt ordered a two-day safety stand-down for all 1,600 aircraft stationed at 79 squadrons on the West Coast, Hawaii, Guam and Japan.

The Prowler crash came six days after an F-14D crashed off the San Diego coast, killing two crew members during exercises involving the carrier USS Carl Vinson.

That crash was one of 32 in five years involving F-14s and prompted the Navy to ground its entire fleet of F-14s to review procedures and safety.

LCDR. Dee and LT. Francis were both great people and Americans!Th

at was a sad day!


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