Navy Plane Crashes Off Virginia Coast

U.S. Navy's all weather, carrier-based tactical warning and control system aircraft E-2C Hawkeye lands on the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman, Thursday, April 3, 2003. The aircraft carrier is conducting missions in supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

A Navy surveillance aircraft crashed into the Atlantic during a training exercise, and crews searched Thursday for the three aviators who were aboard, authorities said.

"We're still conducting an active search and rescue mission," Navy spokesman Mike Maus said Thursday, about 12 hours after the twin-engine turbo prop plane went down in the ocean off the North Carolina coast.

The E-2C Hawkeye crashed at about 11 p.m. Wednesday, shortly after taking off from the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Maus said. He did not know whether the plane sent out a distress call.

The Truman and another Norfolk-based aircraft carrier, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, were searching for the missing aviators. A Coast Guard cutter, airplane and helicopter also were on the scene, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The cause of the crash was being investigated.

Maus said the carrier had been conducting routine training about 150 miles southeast of the Virginia Capes, roughly where the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean meet. That would put the ship off North Carolina; Maus said he did not have an exact location.

The plane is from Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 120, based at Norfolk Naval Station.

The E-2C Hawkeye is used for airborne command, control and early warning. It normally carries a crew of five: two pilots and three naval flight officers.
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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