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A US sailor from Macomb County was killed when he was struck by the wing of a fighter jet taking off from an aircraft carrier. The fighter jet immediately returned to the carrier after the accident. Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class of Clinton Township died Oct. 4 2008 aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Robert was struck in the head by a missile stanchion and was decapitated. The Eisenhower was conducting routine operations off the coast of North Carolina when the 31-year-old was killed. A memorial service was held aboard the ship on Oct. 8 2008.

Fig.1 Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class of Clinton Township.

Fig.2 The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The jet involved was from the Strike Fighter Squadron 103 (VFA-103), nicknamed the Jolly Rogers is an aviation unit of the United States Navy established in 1952. VFA-103 flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet and is based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia (US).

Fig.3 A missile stanchion on a fighter jet highlighted in red.

Fig.4 A missile stanchion.

The man is the 35th sailor to die during aircraft carrier flight deck operations since 1980(to 2008), according to data provided by the Naval Safety Center. That’s two more than the number of sailors who died in motorcycle accidents in fiscal 2008 alone. Another seven flight deck sailors have suffered “permanent total disability” since 1980. The records cover only “Class A” mishaps, which involve loss of life or permanent disability involving sailors who are physically on the flight deck. So the data doesn’t cover personnel killed or injured in plane crashes, nor do they cover mishaps in which sailors are injured but are able to recover.

Fig.5 The man was struck in the head by a missile stanchion and was decapitated.

Fig.6 The man was struck in the head by a missile stanchion and was decapitated.

Fig.7 The man is the 35th sailor to die during aircraft carrier flight deck operations since 1980.

Most injuries or deaths have occurred when sailors have been hit by maneuvering aircraft, pulled into jet intakes, struck by launching aircraft or turning propellers, or blown overboard by jet exhaust. Those dangers come with the everyday work of flight deck crews. The Navy often refers to a carrier’s flight deck as one of the most dangerous places in the world. Catapults on the 4.5-acre steel deck can launch as many as four planes a minute, while arresting wires simultaneously recover incoming aircraft.

A native of the Detroit area, the man joined the Navy in 1998 and was assigned to the Eisenhower in January. As an aviation boatswain’s mate in the carrier’s air department, he was responsible for handling and moving aircraft on the flight deck.

Fig.8 The fighter jet immediately returned to the carrier after the accident.



The man developed a passion for basketball at an early age. He was an outstanding basketball player for the Mount Clemens Battling Bathers. While attending high school, his basketball abilities afforded him the privilege and opportunity to join the North Macomb Amateur Athletic Union, and travel throughout the United States playing basketball. He graduated from Mount Clemens High School in 1996.

He enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 24, 1998, and graduated from basic training in Great Lakes on Dec. 2, 1998. He then remained in Great Lakes for apprenticeship training. After that, he reported to the USS Enterprise CVN 65 on Jan. 16, 1999, and was assigned to V-1 division. He was designated as an ABH and was then command advanced to both third class petty officer and second class petty officer. After a very successful tour, he left the Enterprise and reported to “C” school, structural firefighting, in Good Fellow, Texas.

He reported to Naval Air Station Whiting Field on Nov. 1, 2004, and was assigned as a rescue firefighter. He transferred from NAS Whiting Field and reported to his second “C” school, crash and salvage, in Pensacola, Fla. He reported to USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN 69 on Jan. 15, 20008, and was the assistant fly 3 petty officer responsible for the direct supervision of 21 sailors. He led his sailors in the execution of all facets of aircraft handling and movement.


The man was a member of the Masons. He was initiated, passed and raised in King Solomon Lodge 9 most worshipful Mt. Zion Grand Lodge under the jurisdiction of Virginia PHO Compact. Family said as a Mason and a man he traveled upon the level of time always squaring his actions serving honorably as senior warden until he was called from labor in this life to refreshment in the celestial lodge not made by hands eternal in the heavens. Family said he had a strong love and commitment to them and his friends, adding that he was a loving son and brother and a devoted father.

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