OREGON INLET, N.C. (WAVY) – Four Naval aviators based at NAS Oceana survived a crash during training Thursday morning.
The Navy confirms an in-flight mishap involving two F/A-18F Super Hornets 25 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras occurred around 10:30 a.m.
According to Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Canup, the Coast Guard was immediately called.
“We instantly jumped into action,” said Lt. Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora during a mid-afternoon news conference about the incident. She called it a textbook rescue. “There was a Coast Guard helicopter up already actually doing training. There were also two Navy helicopters in the area.” A fishing vessel nearby also responded to assist.
All four of the pilots have minor injuries and are reportedly in very high spirits, Pecora said.
The fishing vessel “Pammy” pulled two of the men to safety. An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, hoisted the other two survivors from the water. A second helicopter from Air Station Elizabeth City hoisted the two survivors from the fishing vessel.
“You can’t really ask for something better than that and we’re so grateful for the commercial fishing vessel rendering assistance and we really appreciate any time a Good Samaritan vessel can help someone out on the water in need,” Pecora said.
The first helicopter arrived at the hospital just before 1 p.m. WAVY News 10 video shows two pilots being placed on stretchers and wheeled into the hospital; they were alert and talking.
The second helicopter carrying the remaining two pilots involved in the crash arrived about 20 minutes later. The two Navy men on board were able to get off the helicopter on their own accord. Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Mike Maus told WAVY.com the aviators — two pilots and two weapons systems operators — will go through a medical exam with the flight surgeon, who will determine if they can be cleared to fly again once they heal from any injuries.
Naval Air Force Atlantic said two Navy ships were inbound and expected to arrive Thursday afternoon. The F/A-18F are two-seated aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211 based at Naval Air Station Oceana and were conducting routine training. According to LCDR Tiffani Walker, a safety investigation is being conducted to determine the cause of the accident.
Maus said the jets may or may not be recovered. He said the investigation board will determine if they need the jets in order to complete the investigation.