The Military’s “Breathtaking” Contempt for US Civilian Lives

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Writing in reference to last December’s eminently preventable mass homicide-by-military plane crash near San Diego, LRC reader Steve, who has followed the case very carefully, comments:

“I’ve been a private pilot for 25 years, and like most responsible pilots I study aviation accidents as a means to be prepared for the day when my own airplane malfunctions.

[Marine pilot Lt.] Dan Neubauer’s errors are many and very serious:

* He elected to fly an aircraft with a known defect – a fuel
supply problem that any competent pilot should know could, and
did, affect both engines.

* After he decided to shut down one engine, he decided not to
utilize his emergency checklist. This one act constitutes gross
negligence and incompetence on his part. There is simply no way
to defend it. This is a young, foolish, depraved man who has just
completed a year of intensive training; there is no part of that
training that would instruct him not to use the checklist.

* He defied standard procedure, air traffic control directives,
and exhibited a complete disregard for the safety of the general
public by refusing a clearance to land at North Island Naval Air
Station (NINAS). A landing at NINAS would have kept his aircraft
over the ocean. He actually overflew NINAS on his way to murdering
the [Yoon]family [four members of which perished when Nuebauer's plane crashed].

* He flew over densely populated communities including Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, La Jolla, and University City. For 7 of the 8 last minutes of his flight, he could have diverted the
aircraft just a mile or so to the left (West) to avoid the hazard,
but he chose to endanger people rather than risk getting his
flight suit wet.

* He declined a second clearance to NINAS, electing instead to fly directly over densely populated areas.

* He specifically requested a rarely-used approach to Miramar
Marine Corps Air Station that passed over La Jolla and University
City.

* He failed to practice rudimentary energy management techniques
taught to all pilots, without exception, for use in emergency
situations. Neubauer should have kept his death machine high and
fast, in a position that would ensure he could make the runway at
Miramar even if the second engine failed. Instead, he descended,
and reduced power on his remaining, malfunctioning engine. As
soon as he cut power, the engine quit, and Neubauer bailed out
while his weapon damaged or destroyed 5 houses and killed four
people….

[A] pilot always has the option to decline any air traffic
control clearance, but doing so places full responsibility for the
safe conduct of the flight on the pilot. By refusing air traffic
clearances to NINAS not once but twice, Neubauer rejected aid being
offered and becomes solely responsible for the consequences of his
actions. (The fact that he will not be held responsible, by being
tried for murder and forced to make restitution, is a sign of our
decaying empire, nothing more.)

I’d like to know more, but I am frankly surprised to have learned even this little bit of the truth. The picture I am getting is of a
craven, cowardly young man with zero regard for life and property
panicking at the first hint of a problem…. An engine failure on a twin-engine aircraft is a serious but not life-threatening problem; his actions and decisions changed that to a clear case of murder.

That picture becomes part of a very disturbing scene. This young
coward was fresh out flight school, finishing his training with actual carrier operations. He had been in literally daily practice for over a year. His skills and training should have been at their peak. The fact that he could have so completely failed a minor test like an engine-out (neglecting the emergency checklist remains the most egregious error) speaks volumes about the quality of the pilots and the training provided by the USMC.

Anyone who buys the USMC’s story of `A chain of wrong decisions’ is
fooling themselves. There is no evidence, nothing, to indicate that
every single decision was not made in accordance with standard
operational practice.

The aircraft had flown 146 flights of just over an hour average duration with a known fuel system defect. None of those relieved of duty urged or required Neubauer to use his damned checklist. None of them exhibited any reluctance to flying a seriously degraded aircraft over densely populated areas when safe alternatives were not only available, but being overflown.

The only thing different about this time is that they got caught, and
4 civilians were killed. After attempting to block release of the air
traffic controller audio tapes, the USMC admitted the errors, but
their idea of `taking responsibility’ is limited to paying $147,000 to 11 affected families. This is literally less than the cost of the fuel for the flight that killed 2 women and 2 babies.

Had it been sailors or marines killed, or had the jet made a landing in Miramar, or even crashed in Miramar, we would have heard nothing remotely resembling the truth. Families of dead sailors or marines would have been fed a pack of lies about the nature and circumstances of their child’s or spouse’s death. The public would have heard about the heroism of the coward in the cockpit.

[By way of buttressing this point, it's useful to remember that the evil concept of `State secrets privilege' arose from the military cover-up of a 1948 crash of a B-29 Superfortress bomber during a secret training mission; deprived of other means to thwart discovery demands by the widows of the 13 crash victims, the Truman Regime pulled the `state secrets privilege' claim from its retreating anatomy, and the Supreme Court upheld that spurious claim. The truth wasn't know until decades later. -- WNG]

This is a disgraceful performance by the pilot and the system that
trained him, directed him, and attempted to cover up his crimes. His
performance is so shameful as to defy explanation. The contempt shown for innocent life and property is simply breathtaking.”

12:29 pm on March 5, 2009