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thedrifter
12-14-08, 07:30 AM
Marines Say F/A-18 Pilot Followed Correct Procedures

Sun, 14 Dec '08
Emotional Crowd Packs Community Forum At High School

In a briefing with members of congress Thursday, Marine generals stated the pilot of a stricken F/A-18D Hornet that crashed into a residential area adjacent to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar had correctly followed procedures in his attempt to land at the military base.

Alpine's Rep. Duncan Hunter, top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, requested the briefing. Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, and Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego were also present.

After the closed-door briefing in Washington, DC, Hunter said, "Double engine failure in the F/A-18D is an extremely rare occurrence and the pilot made every effort to bring the aircraft under control."

"The Marine Corps... given only one engine had malfunctioned and the aircraft was running fine on the second motor, felt comfortable directing that airplane into Miramar," said Hunter's spokesman Joe Kasper. "Altitude, terrain and air speed made it very difficult to divert anywhere else." Kasper added that the emergency landing at Miramar was not without precedent.

As ANN reported last Monday, the plane had departed from the USS Abraham Lincoln about 50 miles off the San Diego coast and suffered the failure of the right engine soon after. The flight was then directed to Miramar MCAS for an emergency landing.

Mishap turned to tragedy as the left engine also failed, about two miles short of the runway. The plane crashed into a residential neighborhood, destroying several homes and taking the lives of four people on the ground.

The pilot of the jet was able to eject prior to impact, and survived with minimal injuries. "He was a little shaken up," said witness Jason Widmer, who came to the pilot's aid. "The first thing he said to me, even before he said, 'I'm OK,' he said, 'I hope I didn't kill anybody."

Officials from the Marine base, as well as local city, police and fire officials held a public meeting before a packed house of about 300 people at nearby University City High School auditorium Friday night, to address community concerns and answer questions.

The emotional and sometimes hostile crowd wanted to know, among other things, why the disabled jet had been routed over their neighborhood.

Col. Christopher O'Connor, Miramar's commanding officer, told the audience, "I pledge an absolutely thorough investigation so the cause is identified and never happens again."

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said, "I'm sure we'll be learning many lessons that we can put to use," expressing confidence that the Marine Corps would take steps to prevent a similar crash, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

Many citizens present were not so easily comforted. University City resident Louis Rodolico remarked, "I'm very concerned that we're not going to get the full truth, and we're not going to have enough outrage (in the community)," followed by a hearty round of applause from the crowd.



"We need to know who cleared this pilot to fly over our houses," Rodolico said. Others suggested that the Marines should reroute pilots away from University City and even recommended canceling the planned Blue Angels air show.

But not everyone was bitter. Vicky Taylor, a seven-year resident of University City, pointed out that passing judgment before the investigation is completed is "ignorant and ineffective," the UT reported. Even Don Yoon -- whose wife, daughters and mother-in-law died in the crash -- held a news conference a day after the accident, asking the public not to blame the pilot.

Reaching out to the community, Miramar MCAS posted the following sentiments on its website: "The Marines, Sailors, and Civilian Marines aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar would like to offer their sincere condolences to the families and the entire University City community affected by this tragedy.

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people who live and work in the community surrounding the air station. We will do everything we can to ease the suffering of the community and speed the recovery process.



"Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has felt the impact of this terrible accident. We remain committed in supporting our neighbors during this challenging time."

In a process expected to take several weeks, the Marines are removing wreckage and cleaning up the accident site. Experts from the Marines, Navy, Federal Aviation Administration, and National Transportation Safety Board are cooperating in the investigation of the crash.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.ntsb.gov, www.miramar.usmc.mil/home.htm

Ellie