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Pentagon Says Chinese Fighter Passed Closely to American Surveillance Plane Before Crash

Aired April 10, 2001 - 08:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I just heard that we've got some brand new details on this Navy spy plane story.

CNN's Patty Davis is here now with those, from the Pentagon -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, a senior Pentagon official tells CNN that that Chinese fighter jet was on its third pass by the U.S. surveillance plane when the midair collision occurred. The official says that the Chinese F-8 was coming in on the first two passes at a 45-degree angle some 3 to 5 feet away from the U.S. aircraft. On the third pass, the crew says that the plane was coming in much too fast and much too close. That collision occurred when the tail hit the propeller of the U.S. EP-3.

The Pentagon official says there was massive, massive damage -- more than we even realized -- to the U.S. surveillance plane. Part of the elevator was jammed by the antenna that controls the up and down movements of the plane. There were no wing flaps in that plane. Also, there was a gash in the left aileron, which controls turning left and right. There was no nose cone on that plane, so the pilot was being buffeted in that way as well.

The collision knocked the plane off autopilot. The Pentagon official says that that plane was on autopilot. It was knocked off plunging some 5,000 to 8,000 feet before that pilot could get it under control -- Carol.

LIN: So again, Patty, how close on this third pass do your sources say that that Chinese plane came to the Navy plane?

DAVIS: Well, on the first two passes, we know that it was some 3 feet to 5 feet away. It was extremely, extremely close. It must have been closer than that and coming even faster than the first two passes. So it was very dangerous, and you can see how a midair collision could have occurred in that circumstance -- Carol.

LIN: And certainly, at this point, contradicting what the surviving Chinese pilot has testified to publicly.

Thanks so much, Patty Davis, reporting live out of the Pentagon with the latest details on the China spy plane controversy.

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