A trio of detailed reports on sad, and sordid, military misfortunes have surfaced in recent days. They make for great time-wasters at work. But here are the cases summed up in a nutshell:
— Regarding the crash of an Air Force F-16 fighter jet in Korea last March? Don’t blame the pilot.
The [mishap pilot’s] actions during the mishap sequence were focused, precise and appropriate. His actions or lack of actions did not contribute to the mishap.
— Regarding the crash of a Marine V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft in Morocco last April? Definitely blame the pilot.
All information indicates the pilot-in-command accepted a relatively strong tailwind component, which by itself would have been relatively benign as proven by the previous departure. The tailwind component of the second departure was compounded by a series of imprecise decisions and actions in the cockpit creating a powerful downward pitching moment that rendered the flight controls ineffective. Unfortunately the altitude and rate at which this series of events occurred did not permit a recovery.
While the report dances around the pilot’s responsibility for the crash – and never uses the phrase, at least in the redacted version, “pilot error” — there is a litany of things that the pilot did that, strung together, caused the accident, in which two Marines died.
If the report isn’t clear enough, Marine Lieut. General Robert Schmidle, the deputy commandant for aviation, told reporters at a Friday briefing that the corps’ prized V-22 surely wasn’t to blame. In fact, he said so three times:
— Ultimately, the investigation determined that the aircraft did not suffer from any mechanical or material failures and that there were no issues with the safety of the aircraft…
— I would just ask you to keep in mind that the investigation did determine that there were no mechanical issues with the airplane…
— And at the end of the day the one thing that did come through loud and clear, as I told you earlier, is that the — there was no — nothing mechanical with the airplane that caused this to occur.
— Finally, regarding the crash of Army General William “Kip” Ward’s reputation…
Every man is his own pilot, and in the case of General Ward, the first man to command U.S. Africa Command, it appears there was pilot error. The roster of self-enrichment at taxpayers’ expense is eye-watering, and raises only one question: how did this guy ever become a four-star general in the U.S. Army?