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Search continues for missing Navy airmen

Oct. 18, 2002 at 10:34 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Military and civilian ships continued searching into the night Friday for any sign of four Navy aviators missing after two FA-18F Super Hornets crashed into the vast Pacific Ocean 80 miles southwest of Monterey, Calif.

The unarmed warplanes were taking part in a training flight with six other Super Hornets when the crash occurred around 9:40 a.m. PDT, although the Pentagon could not immediately confirm that the planes collided.

"The search is still going on," Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Tom Cowan told United Press International Friday evening. "The aircraft suspended their search at dusk, but the water assets are going to remain on scene through the night."

Two Coast Guard cutters and a pair of civilian fishing vessels spent Friday combing a 10-square mile grid off Point Sur and were to be joined by a Navy cruiser and destroyer during the night. Seas were a relatively flat 3-4 feet high and the wind was described as light.

"The weather conditions are not too bad," Cowan said.

Cowan said a debris field had been found shortly after the crash, but there was no sign of the missing crewmen.

The twin-engine Super Hornet aircraft is relatively new to the Navy, and the squadron, VFA 41, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., received the aircraft only this summer; the squadron previously flew F-14 Tomcats.

The Super Hornet has a 50-percent longer range than its predecessor, the Hornet.

(Reporting by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles and Pam Hess in Washington)

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