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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: Dangers on the Flight Deck

Aired October 12, 2001 - 06:35   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. forces in the Arabian Sea have been trained to face constant danger, not all of which comes from the enemy. Some of the threats are actually posed on the flight deck before and after an assault.

CNN's Walter Rodgers files another exclusive look behind the scene from the USS Carl Vinson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The deck crews aboard this aircraft carrier have perhaps the most dangerous jobs of all in the war on terrorism. They work in one of the most hazardous environments in the world.

Life insurance companies don't even touch these youngsters. Forget the pilots for a moment, they're over Afghanistan getting shot at only for a matter of minutes. The launch and recovery crews often work like this 20 hours a day and then they come back again.

It is the launch crews that send these jets down a catapult at 180 miles an hour. Pilots don't begin flying the plane until it's off the deck and over the water.

They call themselves the shooters. This is not a benign workplace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got live ordinance all over the place. Highly flammable jet fuel being pumped into jets all along the flight deck.

RODGERS: Sometimes you can't get out of the way fast enough witnessed this safety officer tripping over a bomb. And if you aren't careful you can get run over by an F-18.

The landing signal officers decided this F-18 had to abort its landing for safety reasons. This F-14 lost its hydraulics, landing with no brakes. One officer calling it bad - very, very bad. And all this happened in less than two hours.

(on camera): By day an aircraft carrier's deck is a frying pan. At night it's like playing blind man's bluff where the potential for tragedy increases by a factor of 10. Landing on a carrier is little more than a controlled crash using this steel arresting cable to stop a 20-ton jet traveling at 180 miles an hour in three seconds. These arresting cables are perhaps the most dangerous things on the deck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this cable parts as an aircraft arrests it, you're going to kill pretty much anyone standing in the OA, on either side, as that cable swings through.

RODGERS: Small wonder anyone who works out here gets hazardous duty pay. Still these launch and recovery crews say only when it ceases to be exciting will they leave the flight deck.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, aboard the Carl Vinson in the Arabian Sea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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