On Thursday, July 5th, 2001 a Russian cargo plane moved down the tarmac at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Georgia and stopped in front of the Lockheed-Marietta building. It would mark the end to an incident that began three months earlier on the high seas south of Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
Assembly of the P-3 (the plane involved in the incident is designated EP-3E) was transferred to Georgia in 1990 during a corporate reshuffling at Lockheed Martin and since its inception in 1957 (first flight Aug. 19, 1958) the aircraft has been a workhorse not only for the United States but the countries of Canada, Japan, and the Republic of Korea as well. It was a key component of our Desert Shield/Storm operation for its effective use of over-the-horizon targeting and advanced electronic surveillance.
On April 1, 2001 the Navy surveillance aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan Island, China, after being swiped by a renegade fighter pilot from the Communist China mainland. 12 days later, after the U. S apologized for the death of pilot Wong Wei and for landing the damaged plane at a Chinese airfield the 24-member crew returned to the United States.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle characterized Wei as both "a hot dog" and "a cowboy" in separate statements to the press. During the incident Chinese newspapers inaccurately reported the events.
Notes: Wong Wei was flying an F-8 jet.