Fighter pilot who flew jet over Berkeley was giving nod to brother at Cal; Navy is investigating

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BLACKEAGLE

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January 28, 2015 3:29 pm by Emilie Raguso



A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet of the type that flew low over Berkeley on Tuesday. Photo: U.S. Navy

The fighter jet that buzzed Berkeley on Tuesday, sending both shock waves and excitement through the community, was reportedly flown by the brother of a Cal grad student.

A man posting as “TheCulprit” on Berkeleyside said the pilot was his brother, writing, “It was an awesome personal air show.”

Berkeleyside has confirmed that the commenter attends UC Berkeley, and that his brother is a pilot with the U.S. Navy.

“TheCulprit” said by email that his brother “is moving to Texas at the end of the week so he thought it would be cool to fly over campus while I was there before he left. Not that much to the story unfortunately.”

The pilot “rocked” the plane, making its wings tilt up and down when it passed over Berkeley, according to some witnesses.

The U.S. Navy is investigating the incident, said Lt. Reagan B. Lauritzen, a U.S. Navy spokeswoman, by email.

She said the plane was a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet from Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California, that flew at 2,500 to 3,000 feet over Berkeley on Tuesday afternoon.

“The F/A-18E was under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control throughout the training flight, which terminated in NAS Lemoore. While training missions in the local area are common and the pilot was under positive FAA control, the U.S. Navy is investigating the flight to ensure the aviator complied with all FAA and U.S. Navy regulations,” she wrote.

Lauritzen said she could not provide any information about possible consequences when pilots are found to be out of compliance with regulations.

“Every situation is unique,” she said. “It would be pure speculation to make some conclusion.”

She also said she would be unlikely to release the name of the pilot due to the open investigation.

One commenter, Simon Whittle, had hypothesized Tuesday about a connection between the pilot and someone at UC Berkeley: “I’m going to guess that the pilot has a kid @cal and decided to say hi and give a little wave knowing he/she would be close to cal on their flight plan.”

According to a video of the plane’s flight path, it flew over the Golden Gate Bridge at 3,500 feet and turned sharply right at Berkeley, dropping to 2,500 feet above the UC Berkeley campus, before heading southeast over the hills and climbing up to about 17,000 feet.

Some witnesses who saw the fighter jet said it was “rocking” as it flew over Berkeley: “I saw the rocking motion too – like the pilot was goofing around, tilting the wings from side to side,” wrote lady actuary. “I went outside and saw it flying away over the hills, near the 24 tunnel. It was shaped like a Blue Angel type.”

Some local residents said they were thrilled by jet’s appearance.

Wrote “Apilot”: “That’s awesome! Tell your brother that plenty of Berkeley residents appreciated the pass, despite the fact that it harshed the vibe of some local crunchies who were in the middle of bikram yoga. My best friend flies the EA-18 and I love visiting his base to hear them do their thing. I wish we had that kind of jet noise every day in East Bay. Nothing better.”

Wrote Dalya Wynn on the Berkeleyside Facebook page, “All the kids at Malcolm X elementary got really excited when they heard it fly by.”

Wrote another: “It’s called the SOUND OF FREEDOM! Enjoy it and buy the pilot a beer if you see him!”

Others, however, were not so enthusiastic. Many said they were frightened by the sound of the fighter jet, and feared a crash might follow.

A local resident identified only as JG wrote: “What happened this afternoon terrified me and my children. They were in their classrooms at BHS and Longfellow the the plane screamed over their heads. In my younger child’s class, children began screaming out of fear. Simultaneously, I was at home thinking, ‘So this is what children in Iraq and Afghanistan hear when US fighter planes zoom in to drop bombs on them.’ Today’s event was real, very scary, and very odd. I want an explanation from the perps of today’s freak out.”

Said another: “i am so grateful to see this and know i was not alone in my alarm this afternoon. i’m a fleet week lover, but not in january and not without warning.”

Some said they simply would have preferred a bit of warning so they could have known what to expect.

“I work on the North side of campus and we could see it quite clearly, right over head. It was kind of neat. Not knowing its purpose though was unsettling,” wrote someone identified only as “Weeeeeeee !!!!.”

A Berkeley High School student said the flyover happened during a guest appearance in a BHS classroom by comedian Keegan-Michael Key: “This happened right as Keegan Michael, Key from Key and Peele was about to start telling us a story. He thought this was a regular occurrence until he saw how freaked out everyone got, especially when the car alarms went off.”

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, Ian Gregor, also identified the plane as an F-18 out of NAS Lemoore. Naval Air Station Lemoore is in Lemoore, California, about 40 miles south of Fresno.

Some readers were concerned about the plane’s altitude. Gregor said by email that airplanes cannot descend below 1,000 feet from the nearest structure or obstacle when flying over densely populated areas.

“My understanding is the F-18 from yesterday’s flight never got below 2,500 feet,” he wrote Wednesday. He said additional inquiries should be directed to the Navy.

The F-18, or F/A-18 Hornet, had the callsign FALCN41, according to a reader familiar with the San Jose Airport’s Webtrak website. He said the callsign is attached to the VFA-137 “Kestrels,” which are based at Lemoore.

He said it sounded like the jet may have been on “full afterburner” — used to increase thrust, according to Wikipedia — when it flew over Berkeley, which could have accounted for the reported 10-15 seconds of deep rumble that local residents heard when the plane was overhead.

According to the Kestrels’ website, “The F/A-18E Super Hornet is the world’s most advanced strike fighter. Designed to operate from a carrier, the Super Hornet is fully capable in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The F/A-18E has a crew of one.”

The fighter has a wingspan of 42 feet (“without missiles“) and is 60 feet long by 16 feet tall. It weighs 32,000 pounds, and can reach speeds up to Mach 1.8, or 1,190 mph.

Fighter pilot who flew jet over Berkeley was giving nod to brother at Cal; Navy is investigating | Berkeleyside
 
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Wow, this is the first I've heard of this, thanks for posting it @BLACKEAGLE. I'm going to have to look for more, to see whether and how he was disciplined for this action. I'm sure it was really cool for the pilot and his brother, however, it's totally unprofessional, and disruptive to the area and obviously terrifying to some inhabitants.

I was working at a NASA facility during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York. Many sites were designated as terrorist targets, and NASA was one of them. The day after, I was back at work, and a small plane buzzed our building. It was frightening, and the incident was reported to the FAA (United States Federal Aviation Authority), but I don't know if there was any fallout, and whether or not the pilot faced any repercussions.

I find it disturbing that this pilot took it upon himself to use this type government property in an unapproved manner and carried out this type of maneuver without regard to the potential repercussions. It appears he did have the use of equipment and flight plan approved, however, the Navy seems to agree that his judgment was questionable, and it doesn't appear he notified the school or surrounding communities in advance.
 
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If the pilot was "goofing around" as one eyewitness reported he should really be sanctioned fo that display. A situation like that could probably cause an accident, resulting in the unwarranted loss of life and property, and also the loss of a very expensive piece of equipment.
 
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The pilot's action is an eccentric one. Was a mechanical fault to take place, this would have resulted in needless casualties. Whether his actions constitute a violation is up to the military authorities to decide. But he pulled a fast one and sentimental at that which makes my day.
 
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If the pilot was "goofing around" as one eyewitness reported he should really be sanctioned fo that display. A situation like that could probably cause an accident, resulting in the unwarranted loss of life and property, and also the loss of a very expensive piece of equipment.
Yes, I agree regarding sanctions. I believe it's standard protocol at least since 9/11 to arrange for anything of this nature ahead of time with local authorities, so as to not cause public fear. I'm sure he doesn't have the money to replace that equipment, and no doubt his actions would have voided any existing insurance policy if there had been an incident. I'm sure it was terrifying from the ground. Unfortunately, we can't sit, complacent on the ground these days and marvel at the wonderful maneuvers overhead, without recalling the tragedy of 9/11.
 
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If the pilot was "goofing around" as one eyewitness reported he should really be sanctioned fo that display. A situation like that could probably cause an accident, resulting in the unwarranted loss of life and property, and also the loss of a very expensive piece of equipment.
Talking about loss of property, supersonic shockwaves can actually take out windows. Just imagine how much damage could have been done.
 
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"You're out of regs, son! Now that you got that out of your system...and nice job flying that by the way.....we have some work for you to do"

^ I think this is going to be the extent of the reprimand from the top down if he's a great pilot and they need him. It wouldn't be in their interest to discipline him for this one, even though they could. He was out of regulations but it wasn't so much that they're going to take it out of his hide or his rank. Not something they're going to want him to do again, but probably something they're going to take seriously for a few days and then laugh about and tell stories on at the military watering holes on base later. ;)
 
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They didn't train him so they could discipline him for having a little fun. I am sure he followed aviation rules, since no one reported broken windows or blown skirts :p

But the pilot needs to discipline his brother for sure. Had he kept his mouth shut, things would have been a lot smoother.
 
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I think we're blowing this out of proportion here. A pilot chose to buzz his brother who's attending Berkeley, so really, what's the big deal? While the pilots actions might have been a little uncalled for, it's not the end of the world here is it?

Shouldn't it make you proud to be an American on the other hand? Here we've got a family unit where one son is a fighter pilot for the US air force, and a younger son that's at Berkeley. Sounds like a pretty stand up family to me, but all people want to do is punish him. I think you need to let people have a little fun and not be so uptight.
 
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I believe the big deal here is that he is not paid to do this. His job is something else which does not involve playing around with equipment that expensive and more importantly if something did happen and somebody did get hurt then it would be a serious problem. Professionalism is the most important thing here and discipline. If he wanted to entertain his brother and his friends he could have been in the clowns business. The behaviour like this is not something any military should have been proud of.
 
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I didn't say he should be proud of his actions, all I'm saying is that the backlash as been disproportionate.

Calls for the pilot to be charged and face dusciplinary proceedings are a little extreme in my opinion, as if found guilty he could be grounded for the forseeable future or in a worse case scenario dishonourably discharged.

All because he took a detour and gave his brother a wave. It wasn't the smartest thing to do granted, but if we charge and discipline every member of our armed forces for not doing everything strictly by the book, there wouldn't be an armed forces in the first place, or an America as we know it.

I might be getting on my high horse a little, and for that I apologise, but I just think the people who serve and fight for our countries deserve more credit than what they are getting, and one act like this, and people are calling for him to be charged and disciplined, and I just don't think that's fair.
 

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