The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Wednesday, April 24, 1996              TAG: 9604240391
SECTION: FRONT                    PAGE: A1   EDITION: FINAL 
DATELINE: VIRGINIA BEACH                     LENGTH: Medium:   89 lines


Two Navy jets landed safely at Oceana Tuesday afternoon after colliding over the Atlantic Ocean off the Dare County, N.C., bombing range.

Both F/A-18 Hornets, each with one pilot aboard, sustained significant damage but remained flyable.

One plane, painted a camouflage tan color, lost its nose cone, canopy, the use of one engine and all communications.

The other plane, painted a light blue, lost five feet of its left wing and three feet of its tail, and was losing fuel, but remained in communications with Oceana Naval Air Station.

Both pilots were treated for minor cuts and bruises and released.

The pilot of the tan jet is Lt. Cmdr. Greg S. Anderson, 33, a 10-year Navy veteran from Williamsport, Pa. Anderson is assigned to VFC12 as a training and readiness officer.

The pilot of the blue jet is Lt. Cmdr. William G. Stubbs, 32, a Naval Reserve pilot, who was in the first week of his two-week training. He is an 11-year Navy veteran from Statesboro, Ga.

The accident comes just a week after an F-14 crashed at Oceana during a landing attempt. Both crew members in that accident escaped serious injury after ejecting over the base. Their aircraft was destroyed.

Tuesday's collision occurred about 3:30 p.m. as the jets were conducting air combat maneuvers over the Air Force-operated bombing range just off northeast North Carolina, about 60 miles south of Virginia Beach.

The Navy said it would not know how the accident occurred until after an investigation is completed.

The planes were flying at 15,000 feet when the collision occurred, said Cmdr. Kevin Wensing, a spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet Naval Air Force. Both aircraft remained under control, he said. Otherwise, they would not have flown over populated areas. ``From a safety point of view, they certainly would have made a decision to eject if they did not have control of the aircraft,'' Wensing said.

Judging from the damage, one of the planes may have flown up the rear left side of the other, or the wing tip of one may have clipped the nose of the other, said officials.

Wensing said he was not told how the planes hit. The plastic nose cone of the tan aircraft, which houses radar and other electronics, was missing, along with the pilot's plastic canopy. Later Tuesday, a Navy spokesman said the canopy was lost on impact.

Both planes made arrested gear landings at Oceana, meaning a wire cable stretched across the field helped them stop.

Oceana's fire and rescue units were waiting for the aircraft as they landed just after 4 p.m. There was no fire. Fuel from the aircraft was removed and both planes were towed to a hangar where investigators have begun inspections.

The planes are assigned to Fighter Composite Squadron 12 at Oceana. Nicknamed the ``Fighting Omars,'' it is a Naval Reserve squadron that tows targets for other aircraft to shoot at and also are used in an adversary role as aggressors.

The Navy has only a few F/A-18 Hornets at Oceana now. It is in the process over the next three years of moving its entire East Coast fleet of Hornets to Oceana.

On Jan. 17, two of the single-seat F/A-18 Hornet jets collided over the Desatoya Mountains in Nevada. One pilot was killed and the other parachuted to safety and escaped with scrapes and bruises.

The Navy and Marine Corps have lost four F/A-18's so far in this calendar year. The most recent two occurred April 2, when a Marine Hornet crashed during an air-to-ground mission, and on April 3 when a Navy Hornet crashed in a training flight. The pilots in both of those accidents safely ejected.

In 1995 the two services lost nine Hornet jets. In a forecast published by the Navy Safety Center earlier this year, it is estimated they will lose seven Hornets.

The Navy continues to investigate last week's crash at Oceana of the F-14 Tomcat.

A preliminary assessment of that crash points to a possible mechanical failure that caused the aircraft to yaw to the left as it tried to land.

Both the pilot and radar intercept officer managed to eject. They suffered no serious injury. ILLUSTRATION: Color photo by HUY NGUYEN, The Virginian-Pilot

The nose cone, canopy, communications and use of one engine were

lost when this jet fighter collided with another off the coast of

Dare County, N.C. Both pilots maintained control and landed their

crafts at Oceana Naval Air Station. Injuries were slight.