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2 Navy Growler Aircrew Members Injured in December Still in Hospital

An F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, assigned to the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 32, prepares to land aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy/Justin Smelley)
An F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, assigned to the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 32, prepares to land aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy/Justin Smelley)

Two Navy aircrew who suffered severe injuries Dec. 16 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island have not been released from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The pilot and an electronic-warfare officer were preparing to take off on a training mission in an EA-18G Growler jet when the transparent enclosure over the cockpit -- known as the canopy -- separated from the aircraft.

The Navy has not released the names of the two crew, citing privacy reasons, according to Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, a Naval Air Forces spokeswoman.

One of the crew is in satisfactory condition but "has a ways to go," while the other is serious and improving in intensive care, according to Susan Gregg, hospital spokeswoman.

The December incident on Whidbey Island prompted a three-day "operational pause" of Growler flight operations as well as a similar aircraft, the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets.

The incident occurred as the crew was preparing to take off. The canopy, which is supposed to seal over a pressurized cockpit, instead came off the aircraft.

The Naval Safety Center, in a brief report, said that canopy "exploded" but Groeneveld said the incident did not involve any fire or smoke.

The incident may have been related to a water wash that the aircraft had undergone during frigid temperatures, so washing procedures were reviewed during the operational pause by other flight crews.

Groeneveld said a Navy investigation of the incident is "ongoing."

The Navy's EA-18G Growlers, aircraft that can jam communication and launch systems, play a leading role in the nation's electromagnetic warfare. Their presence in Washington is expected to grow in the years ahead as the Navy plans to expand the fleet of 82 jets based at the Whidbey Island air station.