Fighter Pilot Followed Rules, but Must Defend his Wings

In January, a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet flew over Berkeley, California, creating smiles, a news story, and setting off a few car alarms.

The Navy “investigated” and determined the pilot (“naval aviator”) violated no rules. In fact, he was under FAA control at the time, and Air Traffic Control approved his altitude and flight path.

Yet the pilot will still have to defend his wings and flying career: 

Navy brass has called for a Field Naval Aviator Evaluation Board to “examine the aeronautical judgment of the aviator during the flight.”

The board is not a judicial or disciplinary body but does recommend whether an aviator “should retain flight status.”

(A similar board permanently grounded two Navy pilots in 2010 for a Georgia Tech flyby.)

A commander can convene the FNAEB process for a fairly broad range of perceived infractions, including insinuations of “discredit to Naval aviation.” The FNAEB can have a range of results, but only one in that range is “good” (keeping your wings), while there are a host of others that are “bad” — including losing your wings.

In other words, the best you can do is break even — and there are lots of opportunities to lose.

Presumably, the Navy was a bit miffed that he created a fuss by flying over Berkeley, even if he broke no rules when he did so.

Also at the Military Times.



  • One would assume he filed a flight-plan and it was approved by the appropriate agency. It is baffling the Navy already determined he didn’t violate [their] rules so some Navy brass would now hold this board because they believe he has a judgement problem? Seems like the Navy doesn’t trust itself.

    Its also no wonder our service members continue to distrust their chain of command. I would recommend the Navy publish an update to the rule book to include “no buzzing a city in the USA”, the land I’m certain our Navy Pilot swore to defend, and write this off as “lessons-learned”.

    • Presumably their position is that it was “legal” (consistent with FAA and Navy regulations) but not a good idea. And doing something that is not a good idea is apparently cause to question his judgment.

      Ironically, the Navy is traditionally considered the more liberal of the services when it comes to operations policies. Stereotypically: Air Force — if the regs don’t say you can do it, you can’t. Navy — if the regs don’t say you can’t do it, you can.