Marines defend actions in jet crash
Engine, other factors cited
WASHINGTON - Marine Corps generals yesterday defended the decision to direct a jet pilot over a crowded San Diego neighborhood after an engine on his F/A18-D Hornet failed.
It couldn't be predicted that the second engine on the jet also would fail, forcing the pilot to eject and bringing the aircraft down onto a two-story home where it killed four people, the generals said at a closed congressional briefing, according to Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, and others who attended.
In the wake of Monday's crash, some have questioned why the jet didn't divert toward a coastal air station instead of continuing over neighborhoods toward Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
A number of factors made Miramar the right call at the time, according to the briefers, who included Major General Robert Schmidle.
They emphasized that double-engine failure is extraordinarily rare, and that the F/A 18-D is designed to be able to operate on one engine.
"It's an extraordinary coincidence of double engine failure," said Hunter, a San Diego-area congressman who organized the briefing as top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
"Evidence indicates the pilot followed procedures correctly up to the moment" he ejected, Hunter said.
The jet had taken off from the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln about 50 miles off San Diego. Its right engine failed while it was still over the Pacific, said officials who attended the briefing.
At that point, it was a straight shot inland toward Miramar, whereas turning and heading down toward Naval Base Coronado on the coast - as some have suggested would have been a better option - would have required more engine thrust.