The U.S. Navy recently lost
another sailor to a flight deck accident. The 31 year old victim, Boatswain's
Mate 2nd Class Robert Lemar Robinson, was hit and killed by an F-18F during a
catapult launch. Robinson was an aircraft handler. Fatal flight deck
accidents happen very rarely, about once
or twice a year. There are nearly 100,000 aircraft catapult launches a year on
U.S. carriers. By way of comparison, the
navy lost 37 sailors last year to off duty motorcycle accidents, and more
sailors are lost to other types of accidents (like falling overboard).
duty, especially on the flight deck of a carrier during takeoff and landing
operations, there is a fanatical dedication to safety. New sailors, assigned to
the flight deck, are not allowed out there for at least two weeks, as they are
first drilled on all the safety procedures. These must become instinctive. To
that end, officers and petty officers (NCOs) keep a close eye on the new guy
for weeks after he is allowed on the flight deck.
the flight deck of a carrier is a very dangerous place, and whenever a sailor
dies on the flight deck, the incident is intensely scrutinized to find out if
procedures, equipment or deck layout can be changed to make another accident
less likely. The layout of the new class of U.S. carriers, now under
construction, will be markedly different from current carriers, partly because
of lessons learned from these accidents.