In 1969, a Freak Accident Nearly Destroyed a Navy Aircraft Carrier

Sebastien Roblin The painfully won experience from the Enterprise fire inspired a final round of introspection from the navy, which you can read in the mandatory JAG investigation here. Prior to the fire, sailors were already aware of the danger posed by the huffer heating units to aircraft weapons, due to earlier, nonlethal incidents. The crew of the USS Constellation had even devised longer huffer hoses for safer use. However, this awareness did not lead to navy-wide policies which could have prevented the accident, and the ordnance crew on the Enterprise’s deck failed to react promptly to a deadly threat to their safety despite spotting it in advance.

A series of collisions involving U.S. Navy destroyers in 2016 and 2017—including two incidents this summer that left sixteen sailors dead—have raised questions as to why the maritime fighting branch appears to be suffering the same accident again and again. Watch Obama’s Face At 0:33. This Leaked Video Will Ruin Him Recommended: The 5 Biggest Nuclear Bomb Tests (From All 6 Nuclear Powers) .

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However, it can take time for organizations to learn from mistakes and implement solutions to deal with them. This fact was illustrated when it took no less than three catastrophic fires on U.S. aircraft carriers between 1966 and 1969 that killed more than 200 sailors before major reforms decisively improved safety onboard the giant flat tops. This final article in a three-part series looks at the last incident which occurred on the USS Enterprise .

All three of the disasters were triggered in part by rocket munitions. In 1966, a magnesium flare tossed into an ammunition locker caused rockets to detonate aboard the USS Oriskany , killing forty-four. Then in 1967, a Zuni rocket mounted on a fighter onboard the USS Forrestal accidentally launched due to a power surge, blasting into the side of an A-4 attack jet. This began a chain-reaction of detonating bombs and jet fuel that threatened to consume the conventionally-powered supercarrier.

However, these last two incidents occurred while the crew were undergoing the stress of launching dozens of jet aircraft a day into combat over Vietnam. Such was not the case for the USS Enterprise as she cruised seventy miles southwest of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on in January 1969. The 1,100-foot long Enterprise was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Escorted by the destroyer USS Rodgers and the missile cruiser USS Bainbridge , the supercarrier was undergoing flight drills in preparation for another deployment to Vietnam.

At 6:45 AM on January 14 the carrier began launching a mix of F-4J Phantom fighters , A-6 and A-7 attack planes, and E-2 and KA-3 support aircraft. By 8:15 AM there were a total of fifteen aircraft prepping for launch on the flight deck. These included Phantom fighter 405 which was loaded with six 500-pound Mark 82 bombs and two LAU-10 rocket-launching pods, each containing four unguided five-inch Zuni rockets. As usual, an MD-3A huffer—a tractor-mobile heating […]

USS Dwight D Eisenhower CVN 69
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