FAULTY LANDING COSTS NAVY COMMANDER
HIS CAREER - ACADEMY GRAD LLEWELLYN LEWIS
"CRACKS UP" HIS P-3 ORION UPON LANDING AT
BAGRAM AIR BASE - OVERSHOOTS RUNWAY
AIRCRAFT CRASHES AND BURNS - CREW MEMBER
SUFFERS BROKEN ANKLE - LEWIS "REASSIGNED"
CDR Llewellyn Lewis had landed a plane like this a hundred times before. It was just a routine flight, but when the Naval Academy graduate miscalculated his approach, the boo-boo that then took place will likely end his career.
The experienced flight officer was piloting one of the Navy's venerable P-3 Orion patrol aircraft and was returning to Bagram Air Base from a combat mission.
The 40 year-old officer, deployed to Afghanistan from Reconnaissance Wing 5, based at Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, overshot the runway and his plane broke up and caught fire.
One crewman was injured. He suffered a broken ankle. But the aircraft, which usually carries a crew of 11 personnel, was heavily damaged and perhaps is unable to be repaired.
"There was serious structural and fire damage to the plane," said a Navy spokesperson. "The cause of the crash remains under investigation."
LONG CAREER OF ACCOMPLISHMENT LEADING UP TO BAD LANDING
It was a tough break for the seasoned officer. Twenty years ago, he graduated at Annapolis and has had a distinguished and accident-free career up until this incident.
But in the Navy, if you bang up your ship, whether on the ocean or in the air, that pretty much means you get shown the door. In the case of Lewis, he likely will be told to retire. Too bad, as the pilot has many hours in the air and an unusually good flying record.
We all know, however, you only get a chance to make one mistake, and then you go down for the count.
According to CAPT James Hoke, wing commanding officer, Lewis has been "reassigned." Translation: he's just one door down from the sign marked EXIT.
There is one possible chance for Lewis, however, in that the Navy grounded 39 Orions last December because of fears the aging craft might suffer "structural fatigue" and lose a wing or engine in flight.
If the final investigation shows non-negligence in the case, Lewis might get to fly again. But right now, few would want to bet on it.