Marines Say Lieutenant Showed "Unacceptable Lack Of
Public officials and
news media in California have obtained the US Marine Corps report
on the December 8, 2008 downing of an F/A-18D into a San Diego
neighborhood... and it raises at least two troubling questions.
As ANN reported, the jet impacted a home two
miles from Miramar, killing four people on the ground. The pilot
was able to eject from the fighter moments before impact, after the
plane lost power to its second engine. The first had failed as the
plane was en route to the base from the USS Abraham
In the days following the accident, Marine Corps officers said
the pilot followed proper procedures in attempting to reach
Miramar on one engine. Transcripts of radio exchanges
between ATC and the pilot, released earlier this month, revealed
passed up two closer landing opportunities
after the aircraft's first engine failed.
That apparently wasn't the whole story, however. While the
heavily-redacted report -- obtained by The Los Angeles Times under
the US Freedom of Information Act -- offers few new details beyond
what the Corps has previously released, it does reveal the young
trainee pilot followed orders from superior officers to overfly
dense residential development to try and make it to Miramar, when
he passed up a closer available runway with an approach over open
water at North Island Naval Air Station.
The Corps has since relieved four officers of duty, a sanction
which could end their careers. Still, Lieutenant Dan Neubauer --
who was identified in local media reports but not in the report --
is criticized in the USMC report for "...an unacceptable lack of
assertiveness even given his lack of experience," for not
questioning the orders to proceed to Miramar.
"It had gone right into a house," Neubauer is quoted as later
recalling to investigators, as he saw the plane impact the home. "I
screamed in horror when I realized what had happened."
The report also confirms a fuel problem with the plane was known
to maintenance personnel for months before the crash, but dismissed
as not important enough to ground the plane. Eight Marines and a
sailor have been reprimanded for their roles in that decision.
The Corps' report classifies the accident as "avoidable." Lt.
Neubauer, described in the report as exhibiting "no unsafe trends
or questionable judgment" during his training, will be evaluated to
determine whether he'll complete his training for deployment.