On Friday, 12 September, two F/A-18Cs (a single-seat F-18 known as a “Charlie”) collided over the Pacific Ocean. One pilot was quickly recovered, but the other was not recovered. Both jets were based on the USS Carl Vinson, which is West Coast aircraft carrier, and the affected squadrons, VFA-113 and VFA-94, are based out of Lemoore, California, which is one of the two Navy F/A-18 bases in the USA.
The carrier air wing (the collective term for all the aircraft squadrons and support commands aboard the carrier, in this case known as CVW-17) was performing flight ops at the time of the collision, which simply means that the pilots and NFOs were flying off and on the carrier with a purpose (perhaps practicing tanking, tactics, etc). Flight ops occur almost everyday that a carrier is deployed. Initial reports suggested that sailors and officers working on the flight deck witnessed the collision because the jets were in a holding pattern waiting to land on the carrier. I gathered all of this information from news reports by Stars & Stripes and The Navy Times.
Yesterday, about 24 hours following the collision, the Navy called-off its search for the missing pilot. This is a HUGE blow to our community as a whole, but, most importantly, a huge blow to all those aboard the USS Carl Vinson and their families. Our Naval Aviation community has lost another loved one, another friend, another life.
As the author of “Ask Skipper” so perfectly asks, “In accordance with your tradition, please pray for those who lost a friend, sibling, son/daughter, or squadron mate. The entire team surrounding our departed warrior has nearly 9.5 months of deployment ahead of them. Their ability to grieve and heal properly are of the utmost importance; our nation’s calling awaits them.”
That’s right, folks, this accident occurred as the carrier was in its first weeks of a 10 month deployment. The deceased pilot’s coworkers on the carrier must grieve and heal as they steam toward the Middle East for a very long deployment. As the author of “Ask Skipper” also requested, please remember that the Navy is conducting a thorough investigation. As a show of respect toward the family of the deceased, please hold your speculation about the cause of the accident on social media sites. By all means, post and re-post articles about the crash and investigation, but please remember that a human life was lost. There is nothing more crass then some fool speculating about what might have gone wrong as a community is grieving.
I don’t know if I have any readers who are CVW-17 families, but, if so, I want you to know that your community is in the hearts and minds of all of us here in Japan. We send you our love and prayers for peace. Our spouses are deployed, too, and it could have happened to any of us. We grieve with you. I will post fundraising information for the family of the deceased as soon as it is released. Please check back in a few days.