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Landing Permission in China Requested, EP-3 Pilot Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore and Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2001 – Navy Lt. Shane Osborn told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that he requested permission to land in China after his EP-3 collided with a Chinese jet over the South China Sea March 31.

Osborn told Rumsfeld that he made repeated calls to Chinese authorities requesting permission to land. "We were unable to hear any response that they did give due to holes in my pressure bulkhead causing air noise into the aircraft," Osborn said.

The Navy pilot spoke to Rumsfeld from aboard an Air Force C-17 taking him and the other 23 EP-3 crew members to Hawaii.

Osborn, who was also mission commander, was piloting the EP-3 when a Chinese F-8 jet collided with it March 31. He managed to fly the plane to a Chinese military airfield on Hainan Island. Chinese authorities detained the crew until April 11.

He said he flew over no land until he had the airfield in sight. He said he first checked the airfield to see if it was clear, and then, "dropped the gear and landed."

Rumsfeld told the lieutenant to pass along his great respect to the aircrew.

After the conversation, the C-17 landed at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for a formal welcome home ceremony.

"We're all proud of you for the way that you conducted yourselves these past few weeks, and for the high spirit and professionalism you demonstrate in the service to your country every day," Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told the crew. "It's wonderful for me to have the pleasure to say both 'Welcome back' and 'Well done' to this great crew."

Fargo passed along the praise of President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld during the ceremony.

Osborn and his crew will go through debriefing in Hawaii. Fargo said the crew would be home for Easter.

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Related Sites:
Remarks by the President Upon the Return From China of U.S. Service Members, April 12, 2001
Secretary Rumsfeld's Letter to the EP-3 Crew, April 12, 2001

Click photo for screen-resolution imageEP-3 crewmembers stand at ease during the April 12 ceremony welcoming them to Hawaii following their release from China. The crew had been detained by the Chinese following a mid-air collision with an F-8 fighter over the South China Sea. (TSgt. Paul Holcomb, USAF)   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA crowd gathers at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii to welcome home the crew of the EP-3 reconnaissance plane that collided with a Chinese fighter over the South China Sea. (TSgt. Paul Holcomb, USAF)   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSenior military officials greet the crew of the EP-3 aircraft as they depart from a C-17 at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. The EP-3 collided with a Chinese F-8 fighter over the South China Sea. The crew spent 10 days detained by the Chinese following the incident. (TSgt. Paul Holcomb, USAF)  
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