Pilot missing from Lincoln

By SUSANNA RAY

Herald Writer

Everett sailors continued searching Friday night for a Navy pilot who was missing after an F/A-18C Hornet strike fighter jet apparently crashed into the Persian Gulf, Navy officials said.

The single-seat jet took off from the Everett-based USS Abraham Lincoln for a practice carrier landing flight at 9:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m. Thursday Pacific Time). The ship lost radio contact with the pilot soon after a routine check-in, during which the pilot mentioned no problems, said Petty Officer Charles Glenn, a spokesman for the Everett Naval Station.

Navy searchers from the aircraft carrier and several other ships in the battle group found some wreckage from the plane, according to the Associated Press, but there was no sign of the pilot, whose name was not released.

The Lincoln left Everett Aug. 17, arriving in the gulf Sunday to enforce United Nations sanctions against Iraq. The battle group was in the northeastern portion of the gulf Friday, but was not in the vicinity of Iraq, Glenn said.

The plane was based in Lemoore, Calif.

It’s not the first time an aircraft assigned to the Lincoln has crashed, said Cmdr. Dave Koontz, spokesman for the Pacific Naval Air Force Command in San Diego.

He didn’t have further details Friday, but records show an F-14 Tomcat stalled and crashed after taking off from the Lincoln in April 1996, and in December of that year an F/A-18 Hornet bounced off the carrier’s back end shortly before the ship arrived in Everett. No one died in those incidents.

According to The Navy Safety Center Web site, there have been nine crashes involving different types of F-18 strike fighters in the past year. Four pilots died, and seven of the jets were destroyed.

This is apparently the third serious accident this month for the Lincoln’s battle group, which includes the Bremerton-based USS Camden and six other ships and submarines.

On Sept. 8, an Everett sailor fell 65 feet into the water from the Lincoln’s flight deck while the carrier was south of the Philippines. Christopher Michaelson, 21, is recovering in a Singapore hospital.

The body of a Bremerton sailor, 19-year-old William Parkhill, was discovered at the bottom of the Camden’s elevator shaft Sept. 18 after he had been missing for at least two and a half days.

All three incidents are still being investigated.

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