back to article San Diego F-18 crash deaths 'avoidable'

The F/A-18D Hornet crash which last December claimed four lives after the aircraft came down in a suburb of San Diego was "avoidable", the BBC reports. The Hornet - reportedly piloted by Lt Dan Neubauer of Marine Corps Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 - was on a training flight from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln …


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  1. Steven Jones

    A different approach

    It will be interesting to see if the US authorities take a different view to this sort of behaviour to what they did on with the incident when a US airforce get severed a ski lift cable in Italy. Then 20 people were killed and the navigator deliberately destroyed video tape of the incident.

    The very strong suspicion (to put it mildly) of many Italians was that this tragedy arose through some reckless adventurism on behalf of the pilot. Of course it was legally impossible to try the case in an Italian court.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    you always take it home...

    in this case to Miramar - unless you can't! - these guys are told that the plane flys fine on one engine, and probably fly it so in training... so is it an emergency 'put it down at the nearest/safest strip asap' or is it a limp home?

    I guess the answer has become clear, you loose anything that causes a loss of redundancy you put it down. The only exception to this would be deliberate loss in Training in a safe area or in Theatre.

  3. Kenny Swan
    Thumb Down

    Don't get it.

    How can any relative of the victims think he did everything he could to avoid the deaths? He did fuck all to avoid the deaths, his actions caused them. The bloody coward has an ejector seat for his safety if it all goes pear shaped, the people on the ground have nothing. Instead of opting to plunge his fighter into the sea, he chose a landing point that he knew if he lost control, it would hit people. I don't see any reason why this pilot shouldn't spend jail time, let alone be removed from flying duties.

  4. Mike Shepherd

    Human shields

    Military base next to a residential area?

    Oh, I forgot. When the US does it, that's OK.

  5. Sweep

    @ Kenny Swan, Mike Shepherd

    Calling the pilot a coward is a tad harsh, he had no reason to believe the 2nd engine would also fail. Jail time? are you serious? it was an accident, the pilot has to live with that for the rest of his life. Wasn't as if he was even fannyin about in his plane pretending to be Tom Cruise.

    The military base was there before it was a residential area.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Human shields

    Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but surely a military base will by it's nature have a domestic infrastructure of service families, not to mention local support staff who work there? So yeah, inevitably there will very often be a residential area next door!

    it's a dangerous world wherever you choose to live...

  7. Tam Lin

    George Bush Jr. Jr.

    Interesting how 13 officers have had to tender their careers in order to protect and shield the reputation of "poor poor didn't understand what was happening / name withheld" Lt. Dan Newbauer. But then he's everything his commander-in-chief was: A incompetent silver-spooned coward who never deserved pilot training. So it's OK innit.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Rather vague

    All rather quick to judge, despite the fact the article doesn't really make it clear what happened. The FAA are showing that the pilot was told 3 times he was cleared to land at North Island, but did he ever request clearance? Was he *instructed* to head for North Island? This seems to be missing!

    Nowhere does it say "the pilot, having lost an engine, decided he didn't fancy getting wet by taking the North Island approach, so headed for dry Mirimar instead"

    Aside: I thought the naval training ground/Top Gun moved away from Mirimar?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    Since none of you could actually make a critical decision if you were faced with one. I really like the doublespeak of calling a pilot a coward, Kenny. Since the most earth shattering choice you may ever make is to have chips or crisps at your next meal. If you have never been in a life or death choice situation, go easy on those that do or have.

  10. Wortel


    He lost his wife and children thanks to this disastrous cock-up, I find it admirable the man has the heart to forgive the pilot.

  11. n

    flyyyyy innntooooo theeee danga zone....

    "All rather quick to judge, despite the fact the article doesn't really make it clear what happened."

    When a military investigates itself, the results never "make it clear". Its called a cock-up-cover-up or a CUCU in high level military jargon.

    Example: "General, we've got a C.U.C.U. situation, can you find us a "suitable" team of investigators by friday, the minister wants a statement by month end."

    Those betamax tapes of topgun sure last a long time, judging by some of the posters here still stroking away.

  12. Dave


    He must have really hated his mother-in-law...

  13. Dave Harris


    Yeah, right, and I'm sure he despised his children as well.

    Words fail.

  14. Andy Bright
    Thumb Down

    I wonder

    Seems like a fair amount of punishment is being bandied around to all the military types.. but can someone tell me which of the people that decided to allow property developers to build houses and schools next to a USAF runway are going to get their slice of justice?

    Doesn't common sense suggest you don't allow these things to be built next to the runway used by jets flying under extreme conditions, and therefore significantly more likely to have problems.

    Planes crashing as a problem remains a pretty rare one, even when you take into consideration the military. However if you compare the military against commercial numbers you'll probably find the military tends to plow more fields with their planes. The reason for this is simple. They do dangerous things on purpose, because they have to. It's part of their job.

    Knowing that air force and navy planes do dangerous things on purpose, does the approval for building a residential area next to a military runway make sense to you? How much money do you think you'd need to receive in backhanders before it did make sense?

    Yes the pilot made bad decisions. He was under stress, did something wrong and the inevitable finally happened. I don't have a problem with reprimanding and punishing people who are supposed to do better because they are given the job of flying planes with the proviso they can take the stress and still make good decisions. But I do have a problem with not giving out equal punishments to the slimy gits that allowed property developers to build schools and houses next to an air force base.

  15. kain preacher

    Issue is

    He was told to land some were he should not of. Thats why the 13 are being reprimanded and the pilot is not..

  16. James O'Brien

    @Kenny Swan

    You bloody wanker. Calling him a coward for doing as trained. I have to say that I highly doubt he was ORDERED to return to North Island instead he went with his TRAINING to get the plane home, and possibly to a place better suited for situations like this. Not to mention the FAA also says it was MECHANICAL FAILURE. How the HELL do you expect someone strapped to a seat 15k feet high to hop out and check the oil? Why dont you go back to sticking your head in the sand until you realize that he did what he was TRAINED to do. Idiot.

  17. paulc

    The comment from the relative...

    was made the same day as the accident... well before the news came out about the pilot having ignored instructions to bring it in to NAS North Island.

  18. kain preacher

    Mike Shepherd

    Wow I guess that ignores the fact that base was built before the house were there. Ignores the fact that when these bases were built they were built in areas that most people didn't want to live .

    But hey why let that spoil a good anti American rant

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Quick to judge" sounds about right. We're not told precisely what anyone in the aircraft or out of it did wrong. (Found an AP story with more info though.) Miramar and North Island are one or two dozen miles apart. North Island is also damn close to San Diego city center and to the civilian international airport.

    Residences near airstrips: developers build right up to the civilian airport or US government property line, and people buy houses knowing there is a military or civilian airstrip nearby. (Or, in the case of Cocoa Beach, Florida, people buy houses where they ought to know that flaming rocket pieces may fall someday.) So yes, there are civilians near military airstrips, just as there are civilians near seaports, railyards, and civilian airstrips.

    The Italian ski lift accident: Unlike in that situation, in San Diego the pilot was trying to land a damaged aircraft as quickly as possible. He wasn't trying to speed through canyons without looking at his charts.

    "Told to land where he should not have" : Did the article say that? According to AP: "A familiarity with Miramar was also a factor. The runways there are also 4,000 feet longer than at North Island, which allows more room for error when guiding in a damaged aircraft."

  20. Marty McFly Silver badge

    @ Andy Bright

    It is not an US Air Force runway. It is a Marine Corps Air Station (formerly a Naval Air Station).

  21. kain preacher

    @ac 23:49 GMT

    "Told to land where he should not have" : Did the article say that? According to AP: "A familiarity with Miramar was also a factor. The runways there are also 4,000 feet longer than at North Island, which allows more room for error when guiding in a damaged aircraft."

    I got that from the local news reporters not the article .

  22. Wortel
    Thumb Up

    @Dave @Wortel


    By Dave Posted Wednesday 4th March 2009 14:41 GMT

    He must have really hated his mother-in-law...


    Smart, that. But no, only hit enter too soon

  23. jaime

    Remember this was a Marine plane!

    Anyways if you read the more detailed local newspaper version you'll see they screwed up bigtime and the Marines from my understanding don't tolerate screwups as kindly as the other branches so I'd be suprised if they even let the pilot stay in the Marines after this. Pilots are supposed to be able to handle the pressure of a failed engine and going through a basic checklist that's why they only let the best into the program. At least that's my understanding from all the Naval F-14 pilots I used to work with. They were pretty cocky since they aced all tests in school to get the coveted fighter jets from what they told me! Then again I guess the Marine pilots aren't at the same level as the Naval pilots as one comments below?


    The F/A-18D suffered engine trouble shortly after Neubauer's 11:11 a.m. takeoff from the carrier about 60 miles southwest of San Diego. He was told to open his safety checklist but didn't do so, Rupp said, and instead relied on guidance from Marines at Miramar who had incomplete knowledge of his situation.

    Steve Diamond, a former naval aviator who witnessed the crash and spoke with Neubauer moments after the crash, was stunned to learn that the pilot – as well as his superiors – had neglected to use the checklist.

    “Checklists are the most essential things,” Diamond said. “It's almost like a doctor going into surgery and forgetting to wash. It's that basic.”


    Oh and there's a nice picture too so you can see how far the pilot went out of his way to land at miramar. He even bypassed the San Diego International!

  24. Mike

    @James O'Brien

    >>he went with his TRAINING to get the plane home

    No, he didn't, he forgot the basics (the checklist being critical), 20 miles sounds like a lot but not when you're flying at several hunded knots, 400Mph/20Miles = 3 minutes, he obviously considered it worth the extra risk, he made this choice, if he had an extra 5 minutes of flying time he woud have got away with it (and avoided the two hours of paperwork and shuttle back to his base for taking his aircraft back to the "wrong" base, which might have been the real reason for trying to "get the plane home").

    >>How the HELL do you expect someone strapped to a seat 15k feet high to hop out and check the oil?

    He was fully aware the plane was faulty before he took off, pilots have full vito on the serviceability of every aircraft they fly, he decided to fly a faulty aircraft after alll it had been OK so far. Imagine, your car has the oil light on, you can stop, drive to the nearest garage or just keep driving as it hasn't caused a problem so far, what would you have done?

    Notwithstanding, the problems are endemic, he takes amphetamines because he is required to, what kind of military requires this? His judgement was poor, maybe skewed by the drugs (many friendly fire killings are attributed to pilots using drugs), but as we know "I was only following orders" isn't really a get out of jail free card, there are so many things that could have given this a better outcome, he is responsible for a few of those things, but he is not alone in this.

  25. Bob Starkey

    @AC 23:49

    Having grown up in Cocoa Beach, Florida I can confirm that rocket parts came down in the area. We kids had a rocket engine to play with all to ourselves in the woods for two days before the grownups found it!

    It wasn't until decades later that I found out that hydrazine isn't really great stuff to play with. No wonder the grups were p.o.'d.

    But, that was 12 miles away from the launch site. They usually aimed over the ocean – or tried to – and civilians have to live somewhere. Underground isn't an option there since you run into salt water 3 or 4 feet down into the sand.

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