- As bad as this was, it could have been worse. By the sounds of it, the pilot waited until the absolute last possible second before ejecting. Witnesses say the approach of his aircraft was silent, which makes it sound like a dual-engine failure. To my knowledge, the procedure for that emergency is ejecting as soon as possible. He waited, trying to steer his dead bird into an empty canyon. He bailed out so low that witnesses clearly saw it, which left very little time for his parachute to deploy and risked slamming into the earth with a half-deployed chute. There will be an investigation into what the pilot did and did not do during this emergency, but he did what he could to minimize the damage he'd cause.
- Speaking of the investigation, I've been mildly irritated by some of the news reports ominously announcing that "the military will have jurisdiction over the crash site." Well yes, for a couple of reasons. One, there are sensitive, classified components on the aircraft, and it's not only a responsibility, but a legal mandate, for the military to retain control of them. Second (and in my mind, more importantly), the military aviation community is extremely good at investigating and determing the cause of its own mishaps. Sadly, this is because in spite of our best efforts and training, mishaps still regularly happen, and it gives our investigators a lot of practice. But the final reports are always highly detailed, and a wide scope of causal factors are examined (down to what the mishap aircrew ate and drank for the seven days prior). They pull no punches and bruise many egos. When it's all said and done, however, military mishaps reports can tell you exactly what happened, and are distributed as widely as possible around the aviation community so that pilots can learn from the mistakes of others. So stop making it sound like there's something fishy going on there, CNN and local cable news; the military's doing its job, will do it thoroughly, and disseminate the results so that we can prevent this loss of life in the future.
Finally, my thanks to everyone who called me and Bree to make sure we were alright (there were a lot of you, which is why some haven't heard from me yet; that, and I'm out of town doing training which takes up 26 hours of each day). We're good; please think of Mr. Yoon, his family, and the pilot instead.
ADDENDUM: to the blogger who posted as I believe Gary's Mom, thank you for your comment and telling your story. Let me say that I'm very sorry for your loss, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I don't know the circumstances of the crash as I was barely starting flight school when it happened; I can only hope that the conclusions of the investigation were taken to heart to avoid more loss of life. And I hope that the new Joint Strike Fighter, whenever it comes on line, doesn't have the bugs of the F-18. I'm sure you had a great deal of pride in him and what he did. I will remember him, and keep in my prayers for all the other aviators I've known who died in the line of duty. Semper fi.