View Full Version : Pilot confirmed dead in Cherry Point Harrier crash

12-29-08, 03:57 PM
Pilot confirmed dead in Cherry Point Harrier crash
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December 29, 2008 - 1:02 PM

HAVELOCK — Cherry Point officials have confirmed the pilot of an AV-8B Harrier that crashed this afternoon has died.

The crash happened shortly before 12:30 p.m. in the woods near Hyman Chapel Church. The accident happened on Weyerhauser property off N.C. 101 about one quarter mile from the N.C. 306 Ferry Road.

An official at the scene said the plane that went down was an AV-8B Harrier and that it had caught fire.

Officials at Cherry Point have not released the identity of the pilot, who was with Marine Attack Squadron 203..

Hunters in the area near Hyman Chapel Road described hearing "whining noises" from the aircraft but did not see it crash. When they attempted to approach the crash site flames were too intense to get close.

Traffic on N.C. 101 east of Havelock was reduced to one lane as rescue trucks lined the two-lane highway near Ferry Road.

The National Weather Service in Newport reported rain, fog and mist with light winds in the Havelock area at the time of the crash.

The last crash of a military jet from Cherry Point happened Feb. 13. In that incident, an AV-8B Harrier lost engine power and crashed at Open Ground Farms in Carteret County. The pilot, Capt. Ian E. Stephenson, ejected from the craft and was not seriously injured.


12-30-08, 08:17 AM
History of the Harrier’s Safety

By Andrew Doud
Published: December 29, 2008

Controversy surrounding the safety of Harrier jets has been making headlines for years.

Safety concerns have also been at the center of federal hearings and legislation.

The idea for the jet surfaced in the 1950’s. A prototype first flew back in 1960.

Today’s version, the AV-8B, first took flight in 1981.

It’s the world’s first aircraft that could take off and land vertically.

The jet was once considered the military’s most dangerous plane and the Los Angeles Times did a series of reports focusing on its safety and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003.

The Times reported 45 marines died in 148 non-combat accidents before 2003. That year, the accident rate was more than five times the average rate for all military aircraft.

Since the report, officials have made significant improvements to create safer harrier jets.

A series of congressional hearings said a lack of flying time for pilots and undertrained mechanics is partly to blame for the number of accidents.

The Marine Corps says it’s made great strides to fix and upgrade potential problems and equipment on the jets.

Today’s crash is the sixth harrier accident in eastern North Carolina since 2001




12-31-08, 07:30 AM
Investigators say questions still unanswered on crash
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December 30, 2008 - 3:19 PM
By Drew C. Wilson

Investigators are seeking the answers to many questions as to what caused the crash of an AV-8B Harrier that killed a Cherry Point pilot on Monday.

The pilot, whose identity was not released at press time Tuesday, died when the plane hit the ground and burst into flames in a wooded area off N.C. 101 about a mile southeast of the air station.

The single-seat plane, attached to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203, was returning to the base after a routine training mission, according to a release from Cherry Point.

The jet came down in a relatively open field surrounded by woods around 12:30 p.m. Monday. The pilot did not eject. Those two pieces of information led one Cherry Point official to speculate the pilot was trying to land a jet that was experiencing problems.

However, the official investigations into the crash have just started.

"Probably nobody knows for sure, and we probably won't know for some time," said Mike Barton, deputy director of public affairs at Cherry Point.

He said it was too early in the process to paint a picture of what exactly happened.

" ... We just can't do it because we don't have all the paint," Barton said.

Barton said two investigations would be conducted, one by an aircraft mishap board from VMAT-203 and the other a Judge Advocate Manuel Investigation.

Barton said it could be months or up to a year before the investigation is completed.

The wreckage of the jet is still on scene, about 700 to 800 yards from N.C. 101. Marines are guarding the area as investigators probe the site.

Barton said it would likely be days or weeks before the wreckage is removed. It will then be taken to a hangar and examined further.

Hunters in the area at the time of the crash heard odd noises from the aircraft then saw smoke and flames from the crash site. No one apparently saw, heard or felt the plane hit the ground, leading to more speculation that the pilot was attempting a controlled landing.

"We heard some whining noises and then saw some smoke up in the air," said Mark Seiler, who was hunting on Weyerhaeuser property just west of N.C. 101 and Ferry Road and heard the jet overhead.

The hunters never saw the pilot eject or a parachute.

"We just saw the smoke going up in the air and called 911," said Seiler. "We didn't see any chute, that's all. We saw smoke and fire."

Seiler said the flames prevented anyone from getting too close to the downed craft.

"They were intense, probably shooting 100 feet up in the air," Seiler said.

The crash is the second this year of a Cherry Point Harrier. On Feb. 13, an AV-8B Harrier crashed at Open Ground Farms in Carteret County. The pilot of that jet, Capt. Ian E. Stephenson, ejected and was not seriously injured.

The last fatal crash of a Cherry Point Harrier was on Feb. 4, 2001, when Maj. Todd S. Denson and Capt. Jason K. Meiners were killed when their two-seat TAV-8B Harrier jet trainer crashed aboard the air station.


12-31-08, 07:50 AM
Marines identify pilot in N.C. crash
Associated Press
Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008

HAVELOCK Marine Corps officials have released the name of the pilot killed when he crashed about a mile short of the runway at an Eastern North Carolina air base.

Officials said Tuesday that Marine Corps Capt. Alberto Bencosme was returning from routine training when he crashed in an unpopulated area near the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Bencosme was a member of Marine Attack Training Squadron 203.

Another Harrier crashed in February near Cherry Point, but the pilot wasn't injured. In May, a two-seat training Harrier crashed in Arizona, but the pilots ejected safely.