October 6, The Sydney Morning Herald

US presidential hopeful John McCain was prone to mistakes during his time as a Navy pilot, and if today's standards were applied, his career may have ended in a hard landing, according to a report today by The Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper said that when McCain was training in his AD-6 Skyraider in Texas in 1960, he slammed into Corpus Christi Bay and sheared the skin off his plane's wings.

In his autobiography, McCain said the crash had occurred because "the engine quit", but an investigation board at the Naval Aviation Safety Centre found no evidence of engine failure, the report said.

Instead investigators concluded that the 23-year-old junior lieutenant was not paying attention and erred in using "a power setting too low to maintain level flight in a turn".

The crash was one of three early in McCain's aviation career in which his flying skills and judgment were faulted or questioned by Navy officials, The Times said.

In another incident, McCain was "clowning" around in a Skyraider over southern Spain about December 1961 and flew into electrical wires, causing a blackout in the area, the paper noted.

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photo: John McCain steps out of a hotel in Arizona. (AFP)