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VQ-1 MAKES VALIANT RETURN.

On 31 March, an EP-3E Aries II of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1, NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., was operating in international air space over the South China Sea when it was intercepted by two People's Republic of China fighter aircraft. The EP-3E was flying straight and level on autopilot when the tail of one of the fighters impacted its number-one engine propeller. As the autopilot disengaged, the aircraft made a steep left turn and lost 7,000--8,000 feet of altitude until the pilots regained control. The Aries II--which had sustained damage to two engines and its fuselage and lost its nose cone in the collision--made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, China, after broadcasting numerous maydays. The crew members were not injured; the Chinese pilot was lost at sea.

The 24-member American crew was detained until 12 April, when Operation Valiant Return commenced as a Continental Airlines jet retrieved the crew from China and flew them to Guam, where they departed on an Air Force C-17 for two days of debriefing in Hawaii. A Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61 C-9B Skytrain II carried the EP-3E crew from Hawaii to a hero's welcome at Whidbey on 14 April. At presstime, the plane was still being held in China.

The Aries II crew consisted of the following Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force personnel:

VQ-1: Lt. Pat Honeck, Lt. Shane Osborn, Ltjg. John Comerford, Ltjg. Regina Kauffman, Ltjg. Ricky Payne, Ltjg. Jeff Vignery, ADCS Nick Mellos, AT2 Dave Cecka, AT2 Scott Guidry, AT2 Ramon Mercado, AD2 Wendy Westbrook, AE3 Steve Blocher, CTT2 Jason Hanser, and CTTSN Bradford Borland.

Naval Security Group Activity, Misawa, Japan: Lt. Marcia Sonon, Ens. Richard Bensing, CTO1 Shawn Coursen, CTI1 Josef Edmunds, CTI2 Brandon Funk, CTI2 Kenneth Richter, CTI3 Rodney Young, CTRSN Jeremy Crandall, and Marine Sgt. Richard Pray.

390th Intelligence Squadron, Kadena AB, Okinawa, Japan: Air Force SrA Curtis Towne.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Leland, Wendy
Publication:Naval Aviation News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:315
Previous Article:Up and At 'Em.
Next Article:For the Record.
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