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Crowded skies worry coalition pilots

©Associated Press

April 6, 2003

ABOARD THE USS KITTY HAWK -- Pilots say the sky over Baghdad is so congested with coalition planes that they worry more about inflight collisions than Iraqi antiaircraft fire.

"As the ring tightens and the Marines and the Army come closer and closer to the center of Baghdad, the front lines get smaller and smaller," said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Johnson, an F/A-18 Hornet pilot aboard the carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Persian Gulf.

"There's the same number of planes going up in a smaller and smaller airspace. It's getting hazardous from our own planes in the respect of running into each other," Johnson said.

Controllers are "stacking" aircraft at different altitudes to reduce the risk of collisions, but pilots say they still have to dodge each other.

"You have to keep your eyeballs out for the other guys," said Lt. Cmdr. John Enfield, another F/A-18 pilot. "That ends up being one of your major time-consumers, just making sure you are safe from all the other airplanes."

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