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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
RAF team salvages Navy fighter
drenched plane
The plane was hauled from the Yeo using a crane
RAF engineers have salvaged a multi-million pound Royal Navy jet fighter which crashed into a river as it attempted to land at an air base in Somerset.

The operation to lift the Sea Harrier out of the River Yeo started at 1000 BST.

By 1030 BST it had been moved on to a low loader to be transported back to the base.

The 16m aircraft ended up in the river on Monday after it failed to stop on the runway when landing at the Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) at Yeovilton. The pilot was forced to eject.

plane in field
The operation to lift the plane took 30 minutes
The plane ran off the end of the runway and travelled 100 metres across a field, before crashing through a riverbank and ending up submerged in the Yeo.

Twenty five people were involved in recovering the plane, including members of the RAF recovery team, air station personnel and staff from the Environment Agency who were monitoring the river.

The river was temporarily dammed to lower the water level around the aircraft.

When removed from the river, the aircraft's fibreglass nose cone had come off completely and the nose wheel was sheered off.

There was also some structural damage to the front, but the aircraft was said to be fairly intact.

Accident investigation

It will now be examined in detail by accident investigators and engineers.

They will try to find out how the accident occurred and whether the plane can be made airworthy again.

A spokesman for the base said: "We want to determine what happened so we can be certain it can be prevented from happening again.

"It will be up to the engineers to decide if it will fly again. The aim will be to make it airworthy if we possibly can."

Although the base's commander is pessimistic about the chances of the aircraft becoming airworthy again, the spokesman said: "There are bound to be salvageable bits."

Pilot treated

The pilot of the plane is being treated at a specialist centre in Nottingham. It is believed he will be able to return to duty in a matter of weeks.

RNAS Yeovilton is the base for the Royal Navy's aircraft investigation centre, which holds inquiries into flying accidents.

It is on a 1,000-acre site, with more than 100 aircraft, including helicopters.

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