Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Crashed US jet likely obliterated


ABC News Online
January 30, 2006

A Queensland Maritime Museum spokesman says not much would be left of a US fighter jet that crashed into the sea off the coast of Queensland on Saturday.

The FA-18 was attempting to land on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan during a training exercise early yesterday morning about 200 kilometres south-east of Brisbane.

The pilot ejected safely but the $27 million aircraft was lost. The pilot was rescued from the sea.

Museum chief executive Ian Jempson says a search for a crashed F111 off the coast of Nowra in New South Wales in the 1980s found only wreckage the size of dinner plates.

He also says the weekend's accident would have occurred over extremely deep water.

"The continental shelf off the east coast of Australia, particularly from Brisbane down to New South Wales, is only in places about 50 miles [80 kilometres] off the coast, so I would assume this aircraft carrier was operating well to sea because of their need for plenty of air space," Mr Jempson said.

The USS Ronald Reagan is the world's largest aircraft carrier. It left Brisbane on Friday after a five-day visit.

Lieutenant Commander Ross from the US Navy says that when the crash happened, five other jets were forced to fly in to Brisbane because they were short on fuel.

"There were five aircraft that were sent into Brisbane International Airport. The reason why they went into Brisbane was because of their fuel state," he said.

The US Navy is investigating the accident.

"It should be noted that there was no damage or impact in the operational capability of the USS Ronald Reagan during the incident," Lieutenant Commander Ross said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) wants the Navy to explain why it might not salvage the jet.

ACF spokesman Chris Smyth says there need to be good reasons why the wreck may be left where it is.

"What we would need to find out is more details about the depth of water and the sorts of logistics that would be required to get the plane out of there and how much fuel is on board," he said.

"We just don't know any of those things. We would hope the US Navy would give us very good information about that, as to why or why they can't get the plane back up to the surface and taken away."

Meanwhile, the Sunshine Coast Environment Council says bags of rubbish apparently from the aircraft carrier have been found in the ocean off the Queensland coast.

Another bag of rubbish was found on the beach at Mudjimba this morning.

Scott Alderson from the Environment Council says he fears the US Navy has treated Australian waters with contempt.

"We're pretty disappointed that the American Navy would treat Australian waters with contempt," he said.

"If that's the sort of attitude, it would give me great fears that we've got a nuclear ship with nuclear capability that has no real responsibility for their own rubbish."



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