Local News

Navy Removes Jet Wreckage From RDU Runway

Posted March 31, 2004

— Navy investigators have removed the burned body of an F/A-18 Hornet from

Raleigh-Durham International Airport

.

Earlier in the day, the Navy said it would wait until Wednesday to move the jet, but those plans changed.

The jet caught fire just before take-off Friday, narrowly missing several buildings as it came to a stop several hundred feet away from Terminal A.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. An investigation is expected to take months.

"My speculation at this juncture would be engine seizure caused by engine failure on its own right or by some kind of foreign object -- that may be a bird or something like that -- would be my initial indication," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Springer.

Springer says investigators must also consider human error, where the pilot may have misread a warning signal. Still, unlike at 20,000 feet, a pilot has little time to react.

"When you get some find of a cockpit warning, a red light or a warning horn of some type, you immediately scan everything -- see what you can assess in a matter of a split second or seconds," he said.

The pilot safely ejected during an aborted takeoff.

Since the military attack aircraft had just refueled, it took RDU emergency crews about an hour to get the fire under control. The pilot was safe, so their primary concern was keeping the fire from spreading.

"Throughout the year we do practice our emergency plan which allows us to respond to any incident in less than three minutes. Everything went according to plan with this incident," airport spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.

Smoke and fumes forced the airport to shut down briefly Friday afternoon.

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