Downed Spy Plane Takes First Flight
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ATLANTA (AP) _ The Navy spy plane downed after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet last year has taken its first test flight, 16 months after it was shipped back to the United States in pieces.
The repaired EP-3, a four-engine surveillance and reconnaissance airplane, took off from Dobbins Air Reserve Base at Friday morning and flew for about two hours.
``Everything went smoothly on the first test flight,″ said Jim Saye, a spokesman at Lockheed Martin’s plant in Marietta.
The EP-3 was flying off the China coast April 1, 2001, when it was met by two Chinese fighters. One slammed into the EP-3′s left wing, severely damaging both planes and killing the Chinese pilot.
The American plane fell more than two miles before the pilots regained control and landed at a Chinese airfield.
China detained the 24-member crew for 11 days and inspected every inch of the plane and its electronic eavesdropping equipment, disrupting U.S.-China military and political relations.
U.S. officials had to dismantle the aircraft and hire a Russian cargo plane to carry the fuselage back to Lockheed, where new wing, tail and nose components were installed.
Lockheed says the plane will make at least one more test flight before going to another facility for updated electronics. Then it will return to regular duty.
``We’re looking forward to getting it back in the fleet,″ said Bob Coble, a Navy spokesman.