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Home » Aviation » 2013 Prowler Crash That Killed Three Found to Be Result of ‘Pilot Error’

2013 Prowler Crash That Killed Three


Found to Be Result of ‘Pilot Error’ Sign up for USNI News

By: Dave Majumdar and Sam LaGrone


March 12, 2014 10:23 AM • Updated: March 12, 2014 10:43 AM Get USNI News updates delivered to your in-
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The scene following the March, 11 crash of a EA-6B Prowler outside of Harrington, Wash. taken
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by Stan Dammel, manager of the nearby Odessa Municipal Airport.

A U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Manual Investigation (JAGMAN) into the March 11,
2013, crash of a VAQ-129 Grumman EA-6B Prowler that killed three sailors in rural Wash-
ington has found that the accident was the result of pilot error.

The twin-engine electronic attack aircraft, based in Naval Air Station Whidbey Island,
Wash., was lost during a low-level training sortie near Spokane, Wash.

“The most likely cause of this mishap was due to pilot error resulting in Controlled Flight
Into Terrain (CFIT),” reads the JAGMAN report, dated Jan. 31, 2014.

The report notes that the aircrew was late to recognize the imminent ground impact, which
caused the pilot to make an aggressive input on the control column resulting in an acceler-
ated stall.
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The JAGMAN report notes both the student pilot, Lt.. j.g. Valerie Delaney, who was flying Aviation
the jet and the instructor pilot Lt. Cmdr. Alan Patterson in the right seat were relatively inex- Budget Industry
perienced. China
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Even though Patterson had an enormous amount of previous experience, he had recently
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returned to instructing on the Prowler before the March 11 training flight and “lacked ade-
U.S. Navy
quate proficiency,” according to the report.
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Delaney — the JAGMAN investigation noted — was a hardworking and contentious student warship
but had only average skills.

Particularly, Delaney struggled with low level and tactical formation flying skills—both of Tweets by ​@USNINews
which were required for this sortie.
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“She lacked the requisite proficiency to safely execute this training mission,” the JAGMAN
Report to Congress on Chinese Naval
report notes. “Lt. j.g. Valerie Delaney should have been given remedial training prior to Modernization - USNI
commencing with the remainder of her syllabus.” Newsnews.usni.org/2020/04/28/rep…

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An EA-6B Prowler assigned approaches the flight deck USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) on

Feb. 24, 2013. US Navy Photo

Naval Air Forces Commander Vice Adm. David Buss noted in his endorsement of the JAG-
MAN report that the crew pairing between Patterson and Delaney, “lacked optimal proficien-
cy for the dynamic nature of the mishap flight.”

The flight occurred on the VR-1355 training route, considered the most difficult of the low-
level training runs for Prowler pilots based at NAS Whidbey Island.

“The VR-1355 was a much more challenging route and has been described as the ’million
dollar ride’. It led up the spine of the Cascades and involved working through steep moun-
tain valleys and around mountaintops,” a former Prowler pilot told USNI News shortly after
the crash.
“Turn points were difficult to spot and visually identify. Sometimes you just needed to turn
on time.”

Though pilot error was ultimately to blame, the JAGMAN found the changeover of VAQ-129
from Prowlers to the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft had “impacted instructor and
student perception of leadership’s support (and potentially an incorrect perception of the ac-
ceptance of risk) for the remaining EA-6B student loading,” read the findings.
“This misperception has been aggravated by unrelated higher-echelon decisions, including
shifting EA-6B flight simulator support to MCAS Cherry Point [N.C.].”

Delaney, 26, was from Ellicott City, Md. and was a 2009 graduate of the Naval Academy.
Patterson, 34, was from Tullahoma, Tenn. was a 2000 Naval Academy graduate.

Lt. j.g. William Brown McIlvaine III, 24, also died in the crash. He was a 2010 Naval Acad-
emy Graduate from El Paso, Texas.

Related

Sheriff: Three Dead After Document: JAGMAN on 2013 Navy Identifies Three Killed in
Navy Prowler Crash Prowler Crash Prowler Crash
March 11, 2013 March 12, 2014 March 13, 2013
In "Aviation" In "Aviation" In "Aviation"

Article Keywords: crash, growler, NAS Whidbey Island, prowler, vaq-129


Categories: Aviation, News & Analysis, U.S. Navy, Veterans Affairs

About Dave Majumdar and Sam La-


Grone
Dave Majumdar is a longtime defense writer. Sam LaGrone is the
editor of USNI News.

View all posts by Dave Majumdar and Sam LaGrone →

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Crew-servedFiddler • 10 months ago


Errors by student and trainer notwithstanding, it was our own leader who
was executing CFIT. The erosion of readiness that can be traced to our C-n-C's
relentless contempt for our military at that time cannot be overstated. It's near
impossible to identify a single action of that administration that was not arguably
calculated to erode morale, drive away qualified personnel, embolden our
adversaries, and cripple the effectiveness of United States forces in the field.
Deliberate diversion of funding for spare parts; cashiering of hundreds of
experienced officers; Political Courts Martial intended to destroy SpecOps
soldiers for doing precisely what they'd been ordered to do; INSANE ROEs that
subjected troops to unanswered artillery and sniper fire; The list goes on and on.
It is a testament to the US military's astonishing dedication to Constitutional
principles that they followed the orders so obviously intended to degrade and
harm our nation's volunteer military.
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Edward Leonard • 3 years ago


The EA6B is a 4 place aircraft with only a pilot and 3NFO Radar jamming operator
positions no Co pilot
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