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    Investigators think midair collision caused crash of Navy jets

    ©Associated Press
    November 2, 2002

    PENSACOLA -- Navy investigators think a collision caused two training jets to crash into the Gulf of Mexico in May, killing seven crew members, the chief of naval air training said Friday.

    The T-39 Sabreliners, used for navigation, radar intercept, electronic warfare and other nonpilot training, vanished from radar 40 miles south of Pensacola on May 8. Neither sent a distress signal.

    The jets were assigned to Training Air Wing 6 at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

    Rear Adm. John E. Boyington Jr., chief of naval air training, said he expects a report on the crash investigation to be completed soon.

    "Why they occupied the same air space will be in the final report," Boyington said, but he said it appears it resulted of human error.

    "It doesn't look like any material failures were involved from everything we've seen," Boyington said. "We did go and recover the aircraft, at least enough of the aircraft to make that determination."

    There were no survivors.

    The planes were flown by two civilian pilots employed by Raytheon Aerospace LLC under a contract with the Navy. Also killed were two instructors and three students.

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