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Navy: Crew Messed Up, But Didn’t Strip

Sun., June 25, 1995

The Navy said Saturday that its investigation of a 1989 crash of an F-14 found that the pilot and navigator removed their oxygen masks and donned cloth caps so their picture could be taken by another Navy jet flying nearby.

Navy officials disputed accusations by a former Air Force safety officer that the crash occurred after the crew disrobed and exposed their buttocks to the other plane. They said the official report on the incident found that those killed were wearing their flight suits.

Alan Diehl, who was the Air Force’s chief civilian safety official from 1987 until last October, contends the military has repeatedly failed to punish senior officers whose incompetence or poor leadership led to airplane crashes.

His charges are being investigated by the General Accounting Office, the Pentagon’s Inspector General, and a panel of experts assembled by Gen. Ronald R. Fogelman, the Air Force chief of staff.

Among the incidents was the 1989 crash of the F-14. Navy officials disputed the notion that they had covered up the circumstances of the incident, saying the official report itself was an embarrassment.

The crew was flying cross-country in a routine training mission. According to one official, the report speculates that the pilot and navigator took off their oxygen masks, and turned off the oxygen while their picture was being snapped, perhaps because it was making too much noise. They switched the oxygen back on, but it was too late.

Several officials said that the cramped confines of the F-14 cabin made it highly implausible that two people could manage to slip off the one-piece suit that aviators wear.

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