Accident Grumman EA-6B Prowler 158806, Sunday 4 January 1981
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Date:Sunday 4 January 1981
Type:Silhouette image of generic A6 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Grumman EA-6B Prowler
Owner/operator:VAQ-138, US Navy
Registration: 158806
MSN: P-36
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:off the USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67), near Naples Bay, Naples -   Italy
Phase: Take off
Departure airport:USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67), Eastern Mediterranean Sea
Destination airport:USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67), Eastern Mediterranean Sea
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Grumman EA-6B Prowler BuNo. 158806/'AC-606' of VAQ-138, US Navy based on board the USS John F. Kennedy. Damaged during an aborted night catapult shot on January 4, 1981, in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The USS John F. Kennedy departed Naples on January 3, 1981 en route to the western and central Mediterranean for routine operations. According to an eyewitness report into the accident from one of the crew, Lt Commander Dana McKinney:

"...I have some info to share on the 4 Jan 1981 Prowler ejection. The squadron was VAQ-138, embarked aboard USS John F. Kennedy. I believe the BuNo was 158806. We were operating in the eastern Med and were conducting night ops in very high winds, heavy seas and pouring rain. During a night launch our Prowler's nose tow bar was spit from the catapult shuttle shortly after the cat fired and pitched the jet's nose violently down and left. The jet was at full power of course and the cat accelerated us to probably 35-40 knots before it let loose.

I pulled the throttles to idle, got on the brakes, deployed the speed brakes and dropped the hook as we skidded towards the bow. Mike Postuma was in the ECMO-2 seat (right rear). I had told him and Lt (JG) A. J. Dupont in the ECMO-1 seat next to me to get ready to eject as soon as the cat threw us hard left.

As I realized I might have a chance to stop the jet on deck I said "wait, wait!" but Mike had already pulled his lower handle and ejected almost immediately after that. I managed to stop the aircraft about 40 feet from the bow. Mike ejected successfully and was blown back towards the island where his parachute snagged in the superstructure and began ripping. He decided to unclip his chute risers and fell about 70 feet into the sea next to the ship. Due to the poor visibility and high winds the first helo rescue attempt failed, but Mike was finally rescued by a second helo about 40 minutes after he ejected and returned safely to the ship. Fortunately for Mike, the ship was only doing about three knots due to the high winds and he never got more than a few hundred yards from the ship."

As described above, only one of the three crew - Lt Mike W. Posthuma in the ECMO-2 seat - actually ejected. The other two - Lt. Commander Dana McKinney (pilot) and Lt (JG) Alfred "Al" J. Dupont in the ECMO-1 seat stayed with the aircraft, and were rescued by the carriers "plane guard" SAR helicopter.

NOTE that the above eyewitness report also confirms that BuNo. 158806 did NOT crash at NAS Whibdey Island, Washington, as reported in several published sources



Revision history:

31-Mar-2016 17:35 Dr.John Smith Added
20-Apr-2020 06:36 Anon. Updated [Narrative]

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