Fighter Pilot runs off in Military Jet

Once back in the late 1990’s, I remember seeing a documentary about an Air Force Fighter Pilot named Captain Craig A Buttons that ran off in an A-10 Warthog, then comitted suicide by deliberately crashing it into a mountainside somewhere in the southwestern part of the United States. If memory serves me correctly, it had something to do with trouble he was having with some girl. :rolleyes: . Anyway, I’ve been digging around on the web looking for any info I can find on this guy, and alll I seem to be able to come up with is crackpot stories likethis.

Anyone out there heard of this guy? If so, what do you know about him and where can I find more info about his story?

All I remember about the incident , was that instead of girl trouble , he was outed as gay ( no cite , was a newpaper report) , but at the same time , an airforce truck disapeared with four practice LGBS.

Since this was shortly after the Murrah Bomb , it was causing some constrination.


I found what appears to be a decent, non-crackpot AP release of the story here.


You know, I was always under the impression that those planes were all nothing more than flying computers that were equipped with onboard GPS systems. Systems that allowed the Air force to be able to track those planes anywhere. I also was under the impression that both the computers (and controls) onboard those planes could be overridden by the Air force that would stop any pilot from running off like that. I mean if you look at what those things cost, you’d figure they’be be better equipped than that. :dubious:

Anything that allows the Air Force remote control of the plane would allow the enemy remote control of the plane. Not to mention that if they can remotely control the plane, why have a pilot at all?

I think the Air Force is gong both ways, both with piloted and pilotless attack planes. See HERE for more info. :eek:

      • As a matter of actuality, the US Air Force has been highly politically resistant to the entire concept of remotely- and particularly automated-pilot vehicles for many years. It has been possible to build them at least since the 1970’s, but has not been done until relatively recently… -and did you notice ---- how the first kill made with a remote-controlled aircraft (Predator) was piloted by CIA agents, and not Air Force personel?

I sometimes think that the general public watches too much Star Trek, or something similar, which leads them to believe our technology is far more advanced that it really is.

Yes, military fighter jets (and the newer bombers) do have computers on board. But they are there largely to maintain the flight stability (fly-by-wire) and assist the pilot in targeting and navigating. The human is still very much in charge. And, oh yes, they also have a new necessary things like wings and engines, too :slight_smile:

GPS is a navigational system, not a tracking system, although some tracking system utilize GPS.

Even where such a system is installed, though, a crash can disable or destroy the system. Even if a tracking system of that sort was working, in very rugged terrain even knowing exactly where something is, is only an aid to finding it. Debris scattered across a hillside or under local plant life or snow can be extremely difficult to locate.

There is currently software in development to prevent pilots from flying aircraft into solid objects, but it’s not yet ready for the real world (or last I heard).

But you don’t want to restrict the pilot too much - otherwise, what’s the point of having a fighter jet? And if you could pilot a plane remotely, why have a pilot on board?

Yeah, they cost a lot - so does training the people who fly them. But ROV’s don’t come any cheaper at this point, because not only do you still have to build a sophisticated flying machine, you also have to train the guy who flys it be remote. As for independent vehicles that fly on their own - not yet ready for prime time. They fly well for a brief while, then crash - not nearly reliable enough for a real mission at present.

A GPS system allows the pilot to tell where he is - but no-one outside the cockpit can read it. A GPS system that lets someone else read it implies a transmitter, which is a not a good idea in a military aircraft. If you can tell where it is, what is stopping the enemy from doing the same? Consider, also, that the A10 was designed in the 70’s for low and slow ground attack, so they aren’t terribly advanced nor terribly expensive as far as ‘fighter’ aircraft go. They aren’t terribly expensive because the USAF expected to lose most of them the first week the Rooskies crossed the border, so obviously ‘gold-plating’ them wasn’t a priority. For most of the A10’s operational life, the most important sensors on board have been the pilots eyeballs.

I remember seeing a tv show about this. IIRC, the circumstances were rather nebulous. There’s no doubt he crashed the plane voluntarily, but the potential motives for his suicide are a mystery (hence the crackpot theories, I suppose.)

Thanks for the Info. I found that to be very useful…(that goes for you too Cabdude) :slight_smile:

You’re most welcome Starguard - do you know how rare it is on these boards for someone to thank you for giving an answer to the question they asked? So your politeness is much appreciated :slight_smile:

One theory I recall from the time is based on the fact that Button had completed an aerial refueling shortly before veering off course. The A-10’s receptacle is on the top of the nose, in front of the cockpit. In this case, the boom had not separated as smoothly as usual when the A-10 was full, allowing fuel to spray over the nose and some to enter the cockpit. Speculation was that fuel vapors might have made him high.

I dunno about that theory, Elvis - fighter pilots wear oxygen masks (my understanding is that AF pilots are required to have the mask on at all times while flying) and cockpits are fairly well sealed. Not to mention that the slipstream would make it pretty hard for the fuel to make it into the cockpit in any appreciable amount. The A-10 isn’t the only aircraft with the refueling receptacle in front of the windscreen, either - the old F-105 had it right there as well, and I’m pretty sure there have been others.

Besides all this, since when is JP-4 an intoxicant?

While we’re quoting theories, the one I’ve heard the most is that he was experiencing some kind of remorse after “re-embracing” his Mormon faith and deciding that it doens’t jive with serving in the military in a combat field.

Welll in Top Gun, Maverick would pull his mask off to get some air. I think Cougar did too. Of course that was the Navy! :slight_smile:

What? It’s called a joke, people!

  • Peter Wiggen

Butt-naked doesn’t jive with cutting the mustard.

Ummm…yeah, sure…this is where I smile and nod.

Something that I realized after posting my skepticism on the jet-fuel-in-the-cockpit theory: the crash investigation would’ve known in short order if anything like this had happened - there would’ve been all kinds of signs and residues that they’d have spotted, and this wouldn’t be a theory, it’d be included as a factor in the incident report.

Sure, the substantiation is weak, no question, but it’s as strong as the substantiation for any other ideas.

Consider, too, that pilots don’t necessarily wear their masks at all times, or Button might have taken his off, and that petroleum vapors can influence one’s mental processes. But there’s no good guesses.

Yeah, but having enough jet fuel in the cockpit that the fumes overcame him would’ve left telltale signs that the accident investigators would’ve immediately picked up on. It makes this theory pretty unlikely in my opinion.