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U.S. pilot harbors anger toward Chinese pilot

Lt. Shane Osborn: "I wasn't happy with the aggressive nature of the intercept"  

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. pilot of the Navy surveillance plane forced to land in China after a collision with a Chinese fighter acknowledged Monday he bore some anger toward the jet's Chinese pilot.

The accident set off a tense standoff between the United States and China, which held the U.S. crew for 11 days.

When asked during an interview with CNN whether he was angry with the Chinese pilot, Lt. Shane Osborn said: "Definitely, I thought on the initial impact that he just killed us. And, obviously, there's 24 people on board . . . I care about every single one of them very much, and I wasn't happy with the aggressive nature of the intercept."

The pilot and some of the crew of the U.S. plane talk about the crash and their detention

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China is honoring their pilot as a hero while stating the U.S. plane broke international law. CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon reports

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U.S. Navy Lt. Shane Osborn briefs the media on the collision with a Chinese jet

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See the video released by the U.S. Department of Defense that sources say shows pilot Wang Wei harassing a U.S. plane

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This computer animation shows how the Pentagon says the collision between a U.S. plane and a Chinese fighter happened

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Timeline: Overnight calls brought word of release deal
graphic U.S.-China Collision: A diplomatic solution
 • About freighter returning EP-3
 • Look: Inside the EP-3
 • Facts about the EP-3
 • Map: Locating the incident
 • Big picture: High stakes
 • Classroom discussion guide
 • Historical US-China timeline
 • Whidbey arrival images
 • Crew speaks out
 • Crew's return images


Co-pilot Lt. Patrick Honeck said he, too, was angry at the time of the April 1 collision, but he no longer feels that way.

The Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, is missing and presumed dead after his plane plummeted into the South China Sea after the encounter.

"At the time, there was definitely feelings of anger, but, of course, you don't ever want to see anybody lose their life or lose an aircraft," Honeck said. "Especially as a fellow pilot, it's not something that we would ever wish to happen."

Joined by co-pilot Lt. Jeffery Vignery, the trio recounted the harrowing collision and offered further details on their 11-day detainment on Hainan Island.

They said they were never physically abused, but Honeck said he was wary at first.

"The first day or so, we didn't know if we were going to be roughed up or anything, but as the time went on, we realized that they were more into the psychological aspect of it, trying to get us to talk," he said. "And we weren't really too afraid for our physical being."

The men said the Chinese pressed them for an apology, something the crew refused to do.

"We knew the truth," Vignery said, who on Sunday had said the Chinese warned the U.S. crew there could be a trial depending on the outcome of an investigation.

That never happened, as the United States employed diplomatic niceties and language to appease the Chinese and secure the crew's release. The two sides are scheduled to meet in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss the incident, and the United States is expected to demand the return of the damaged EP-3 reconnaissance plane, which remains on Hainan Island. China has called for an end to the surveillance flights, which U.S. President George W. Bush has rejected.

The collision, Osborn said, came as the Chinese fighter was making a third pass at the U.S. plane. Honeck said the Chinese pilot was so close -- within 3 to 5 feet of the U.S. plane -- that he could see him salute and make gestures for the U.S. plane to leave the area.

"We knew that this was an unusual type of intercept," Osborn said.

The collision threw the U.S. plane into a dive. Osborn said the plane dropped from 22,500 feet to 15,000 before it rolled to wing level.

"We all thought we weren't going to make it through," Vignery said.

Osborn rejected the Chinese account that the U.S. plane was at fault. "I wouldn't change a thing," he said of how he handled the encounter.

"As soon as I get some rest, I'll be ready to go flying again," he added.

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The Pentagon
U.S. Navy
Navy Fact File: EP-3E ORION (ARIES II) Aircraft
U.S. Department of Defense
Government of China (in Chinese)
U.S. Department of State
Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the U.S.A.
Government Information Office, Republic of China

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