Human error to blame for March cable break aboard USS Eisenhower flight deck

Navy investigators blamed human error and an improperly programmed valve for a March incident in which eight sailors were injured when a cable used to catch a landing E-2C Hawkeye snapped on the flight deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

According to a Navy report obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through a Freedom of Information Act request, maintenance personnel missed at least one and possibly two “critical steps” while working on an engine that helps operate the carrier flight deck’s cables, which are called cross deck pendants, after a previous landing. As a result, the engine failed to slow the aircraft, instead causing the pendant to break “at or near” the Hawkeye’s tailhook.

The Navy did not find evidence of willful dereliction of duty or negligence by the maintenance workers. The report said that while there was a “lack of procedural compliance” while troubleshooting an error code from a previous arrested landing, “the sailors involved reasonably believed they had properly and conscientiously completed the complicated procedure.”

The Eisenhower Strike Group could not be reached for additional comment Friday. The strike group left Norfolk Naval Station on June 1 for a seven-month deployment and on June 28 began flying combat sorties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve from the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Navy has said.

Cross deck pendants are 1½-inch-thick steel wires that stretch across a carrier flight deck and are used to catch a landing aircraft’s tailhook. The four pendants that cross an aircraft carrier’s flight deck are placed at 20-foot intervals and can be used for up to 125 landings, or “traps.”

The other system of cables is attached to the steam engines underneath the flight deck; they are called purchase cables.

Those cables pull a movable part of the engine that travels along greased skids and pushes a giant piston into a cylinder full of pressurized hydraulic fluid. The piston compresses the fluid, bringing the wire on the flight deck, and the aircraft, to a stop.

In the March 18 incident, personnel that were troubleshooting a fault code from a previous arrested landing with the Eisenhower’s No. 4 arresting gear engine were using an approved Navy procedure when they missed steps that led them to misprogram a valve that controls the gear engine’s pressure and energy absorption, according to the report.

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