Crashing a military plane

How much trouble would military pilot be in for showboating and then crashing a jet or helicopter? Don’t these things cost about 60 million dollars?

What would be the standard punishment? Link to video example:

I am not a military officer myself although my stepfather was a Naval Officer that piloted large ships and I went through partial ROTC. I have been told that even an unintentional event like grounding a ship or crashing a plane through negligence is generally career ending for an officer. Showboating followed by a crash is grounds for a Court Martial with potential military prison time as well.

Top Gun was not a documentary. Many of the things presented in it (buzzing the tower, flying too close to foreign pilots and much more) are strictly forbidden in the real-world Navy and would result in dire consequences for those involved. For example, Chuck Yeager of “breaking the sound barrier fame” almost got kicked out of the Air Force because some men under his command got drunk and damaged items like a jukebox in a bar even though they paid for the damages themselves. That is obviously a whole lot less than crashing an incredibly expensive helicopter through sheer stupidity.

There was the Cavalese disaster. Twenty people died when a U.S. military aircraft, flying too low, cut a cable-car cable. The pilot and navigator were tried, but found not guilty, of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide. Later they were convicted to obstruction of justice and conduct unbecoming officers and gentlemen.

Both were dismissed from the service. The pilot got a six month prison stretch, of which he served four and a half months, then released for good behavior.

The Italian people and government were pretty angry…

Dunno if this actually answers the question, but it is what happened in one specific instance.

How much trouble? Lots.

There’s probably not a “standard” punishment. Each case would be evaluated individually, and punishment adjusted for degree of culpability and amount of damage.

I served with a guy that did a barrel roll in an F-15 over the Air Force Academy football stadium during a flyby. That’s a no-no, even though there were no injuries or damage to the airplane. He got a formal reprimand that kept him from being promoted for years.

For something with serious injuries or property damage, I think prison is possible.

In the past 10 years, there have been many military pilots who have been permanently grounded, officially disciplined, and a few who have been discharged, for showboating in .mil aircraft, even when there was no damage to property (.mil or .civ). As a flight crew member in the Air Force Reserve, I was officially briefed on several of these incidents as part of our annual Crew Resource Management training.

There’s not really a “standard” punishment, but being permanently grounded is a very real threat for a .mil pilot who deliberately breaks the rules in Uncle Sam’s aircraft. Being perm-grounded in the military has consequences for a future civilian flying career as well; it would be exceedingly difficult to prove you were a qualified .mil pilot through your official flight records *and *hide the fact that you had been grounded for cause. Even if you managed to make the paper/electronic record not reflect your grounding… people talk, aviation is a small world, and it wouldn’t take long for the truth to come out.

There is, of course, the ultimate punishment for showboating lurking out there as well.

There was a Navy guy who was trying to look at some bikini clad babes on the beach and ended up crashing his helicopter into the river.

He was punished by being reassigned. To the moon!

Bud Holland somehow got away with chronic showboating for years before finally crashing his B-52 and killing everyone on board. He flew his bomber like it was a fighter plane; video of the crash is on YouTube, and you can also find video of an early series of scary high-speed, low-altitude passes he made, including one where he cleared a mountaintop by maybe ten or twenty feet. People around him pretty much knew it was just a matter of time. After the crash, there was a lengthy investigation that revealed he was never disciplined by his commanding officers, despite constant and deliberate breaking of safety rules and regulations in flight. Holland bears primary guilt for killing his fellow crew members, but Holland’s commanding officers bear their share as well.

A detailed history of Holland’s career leading up to the crash can be found here:

Darker Shades of Blue (PDF)

Note that in the Holland case one of his superiors was court marshaled for dereliction of duty in failing to reign him in.

Reading the wiki entry for that is heartbreaking. That guy was out of control.
The article indicates that it is unclear if the copilot ejected or not but there are photos that seem to show he did. Although I’m sure he was too low to matter.

As I recall, someone ejected (don’t remember who) but was killed in the resulting fireball from the crash.

I believe he ejected when the plane was already past 90 degrees in a roll, so he was thrown more down than up.

Every time I read about that flight, I just have to shake my head. There were so many sick ironies in the situation.

One that sticks out in my mind: LtCol Holland, the pilot on that flight (i.e., the hotdog that killed himself and three others) was the chief of the wing’s Standards and Evaluations branch. In other words, the guy in charge of the team responsible for making sure that flight operations were done “right”.

I’m an Air Force veteran, and I’ve seen a lot of strange staffing decisions made for a lot of strange reasons, but that’s one I’ll never understand. Maybe his place at the head of that branch was a case of “we need to put him someplace harmless”, plus the fact that he’d probably be inclined to not interfere with his staff actually doing their jobs as long as they left him alone.

An officer can get in a lot of trouble just for causing damage to a plane, let alone crashing it. I remember a Marine colonel who was the squadron commander for a small group of A-4s on a reserve air base I was stationed at. One of his planes’ engines was FODded (FOD=foreign object debris) because the taxiway wasn’t properly cleaned and he caught hell for it. The guy was fanatical about FOD walk-downs after that and was all over my snow removal crews whenever they came anywhere near his hangar. I think that a second damaged engine would have meant his career.

I knew a lieutenant in the Army who had to pay $4000 out of pocket because one of his soldiers lost a radio. I wonder how that affected his career. It was a huge deal in our unit at the time. I could only imagine how big a deal it would be if he had lost a humvee, let alone a freaking helicopter.

The Aircraft Commander of the C-17 that crashed in AK (Sitka 43) was compared, after the fact, to Bud Holland. He also had a known history of pushing the aircraft beyond the Flight Manual limits, which was left unchecked for years. MANY changes were instituted in Air Mobility Command after the mishap investigation results came out.

I had the displeasure of listening to the Cockpit Voice Recorder audio from Sitka 43, which was sync’d to an animated presentation of instrument readouts and flight control positions, as a part of our Crew Resource Management training in 2011. It was as bad as you would expect something of that nature to be.

This Major was forced to resign for flying too low during a flyover.

He had other issues for sure, but it was an awesome flyover! Video at the end of the article.

In the sixties my father was assigned to a high speed/low level (500ft/500knts) flyby over the runway in his F-8 during an airshow in which some high profile dignitaries would be attending. At the end of the runway he would hit the fuel dump, engage the after-burner and ascend vertically into the sky.

In the days prior to the airshow they would rehearse and he dutifully started out at 500knts/500ft, the next pass was 550knts/350ft… then 600knts/250ft.

On the day of the airshow and just prior to him coming in at 630knts/100ft they had a large transport plane demonstrate a short distance landing(this was scheduled after the flyby during rehearsals) which caused a very turbulent airflow over the runway.

As my father flew down the runway the controls became somewhat unresponsive and the plane shuttered and rocked a bit as he checked his gauges and instruments. Instead of a thrilling fuel dump/afterburner climax he instead proceeded with a slow gingerly climb into the wild blue yonder.

After the show he sheepishly went to the commanding officer expecting to be reprimanded and/or at least be ridiculed for not ending the flyby vertically.

Instead, after some debriefing and small talk the CO ended the conversion with:

“…by the way, the dignitaries were quite pleased with the way you rocked your wings for them as you passed by.”

My flight instructor told me the guy that trained him had been in the Danish air force - until he took his jet under the arch of a big stone bridge one day. Since he and the plane were ok, after that he ended up teaching flying in two-seat Cessna piston aircraft to Canadians.

Has the CVR recording (or a transcript of it) been made public? I’m curious to know what transpired in the cockpit prior to the crash.

Does anyone know what happened to these guys?

The fact they were caught on audio openly wanting to thread the needle between the two trees seems incredibly damning.