U.S. Navy commander warns against deadly 'Supermanning' stunt

The U.S. Navy is cracking down on what has become a deadly stunt: helicopter crewmen who suspend themselves in midair by only a safety belt.

"Supermanning," as it is known, was blamed for the death in October of a crewman who fell from a helicopter over the Persian Gulf, a Navy investigation concluded.

The commander of the &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/2002/08/06/33963.html' target=_blank>Atlantic Fleet Naval Air Force, Rear Adm. Denby H. Starling II, said he has disciplined eight crew members from a Corpus Christi, Texas, squadron for performing a similar stunt or failing to report the activity to superiors.

"My initial reaction was that I was absolutely flabbergasted," Starling told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.

"I figured this had to be a one-time deal, but when we asked questions, we found out it was not," he said. "Other guys in this squadron had engaged in this kind of activity as well."

Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian K. Joplin, 32, died Oct. 4 after falling about 125 feet (40 meters) to the Persian Gulf. The helicopter's two pilots were unaware Joplin was performing the stunt until just before he fell and were not disciplined, according to the investigation.

Joplin was attached by a 10-foot (3-meter) safety belt to the helicopter's stern ramp, according to the investigation report, obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through a Freedom of Information Act request.

With his body suspended by the belt, he reportedly used his hands to hold on to the edge of the ramp.

"His legs were flying out behind him horizontally" in "the Superman maneuver," the report said.

Two crew members apparently saw Joplin lose his grip and tried unsuccessfully to pull him back into the aircraft, but the belt slipped off and he fell.

Starling said he believes this was the first time someone died during the stunt. It is unclear how long Supermanning has been practiced, he said.

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