View from 52: Another near miss from an F/A-18 in University City
by Sandy Lippe
Published - 11/14/12 - 04:12 PM | 4474 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Nov. 6, an F/A-18 jet, similar to the one pictured here, flew low over University City, alarming some residents. DON BALCH | Village News
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On election night, Nov. 6, at 8:10 p.m. a lot of University City residents froze in fear when they heard an F/A-18 fly low and loud over their homes. In the case of this writer, it sounded as though the plane would crash into our house. It was a moment of fear reminiscent of the 2008 F/A-18 crash that flew low and loud and killed four University City residents and did physical and psychic damage to many.

This particular Navy jet was training 100 miles off the coast of San Diego with the aircraft carrier Nimitz and was diverted for an emergency landing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, according to Gretel Kovach, a military writer for the U-T San Diego. It landed on Runway 6L used for emergency landings.  

A lot of concerned University City residents are not satisfied by the statement from Aaron Kakiel, spokesman for Naval Air Forces Pacific, who cited an “undisclosed mechanical issue” as the reason for the diversion — remember, it wasn’t that long ago that an F/A-18 jet killed four people and destroyed homes in U.C.

Emails from University City folks were low-flying and loud too. Indeed, the plane traveled over the heart of the University City community.

George Odero lives on Huggins Street, close to the 2008 crash site. 

“This is scary. We need to address this with Miramar to find out what they are doing to prevent a repeat of the last incident,” he wrote.

Blogger Jemma Samala wrote, “I was very concerned and was making sure my kids were nearby. My parents on the east end of U.C. also felt it … it brought back memories of the crash.”

Don Hotz said, “ … [It made] the same sound the previous one was making as it crashed in our neighborhood. Not good … I thought Miramar has committed to changing the emergency route to Miramar,” to which Barry Bernstein replied, “The new colonel and pilots should know planes in any sort of trouble are to find another entry route to Miramar landing zone.”

Roger Brown, USN F-8/F-4, took another view.

“Usually, landings west to east are due to either winds or aircraft on low fuel bingo from carrier operation off the coast. Loud? Yes. Don’t know if aircraft was at proper altitude for distance from touchdown. I could hear engines accelerate and decelerate so damage was noise and not engine issues.” 

Resident Ron Belanger is a retired Navy pilot with a resume longer than runway 6L. He’s been involved in all things military. He is a retired naval officer/aviator. His expertise is aircraft accident investigator. Ron joins many, many University City residents who love our military, praise our noise of freedom above, but who also want to see how this near miss occurred when it shouldn’t have. 

Ron wrote, “We are concerned in University City that the Marine Corps keeps ignoring their own procedures. In doing so, they continue to threaten our lives. If the pilot was so anxious to get on the ground that he approached from the east and then landed in the wrong direction straight onto runway 06L, instead of circling in the clear weather to land on the active runway, which was 24R, then he must have been concerned that his aircraft wouldn’t stay in the air much longer.

“We don’t like that he made a deliberate decision to take his distressed F/A-18 over University City. If his F/A-18 stopped flying, he would have ejected and parachuted into someone’s backyard while his F/A-18 crashed into another house here in U.C. and causing more deaths,” he continued.

“There is a stunning lack of leadership in the Air Wing at Miramar that has never reacted to this continuing and deadly problem. Their churlish and arrogant response to criticism doesn’t bode well for a solution to this problem. It is not a national security issue that keeps them from responding to a request for information. Why is this kept a secret? We would like to find more information because we want to get the attention of the Air Wing commander who is responsible for training these pilots,” Belanger concluded.

Hopefully,  University City residents will have a chance to sit down and hear from the leadership at Miramar and get some questions answered in a respectful meeting of the minds. 

 — Sandy Lippe is a 36-year resident of University City and the former president of the UC Community Association.
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