After I finished Naval flight training and received my wings, I headed for Cherry Point, North Carolina. I had been selected for the AV8 Harrier and the jet’s six-month training program was based there. I was both nervous and excited, as the Harrier was the premier Marine Corps fighter jet.
I was also honored in that the pilots selected for the program were generally steely-eyed veterans, the best in the Corps. However, until my tenure, the jet was considered too dangerous for new guys. The axiom among established Harrier pilots was it took a year before one could fly the jet without being scared spitless.
If I remember correctly, my training class consisted of seven pilots: four experienced ones transitioning from other fleet jets and three nuggets recently out of flight school. It was a good group of men. Yet barely two months later three of us had crashed, presumably due to pilot error in all cases. One of us was dead, another’s career was ruined and the third had to wait weeks under the pall of screw-up until he was cleared of any missteps. I was that third.
Read more: The Crash – Divine Providence?