|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2007)|
|Kara Spears Hultgreen|
Kara Hultgreen with an F-14 Tomcat
October 5, 1965|
|Died||October 25, 1994
Killed in plane crash off San Diego, California
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1987-1994|
Kara Spears Hultgreen (October 5, 1965–October 25, 1994), was a lieutenant in the United States Navy and the first female naval carrier-based fighter pilot. She died just months after she was certified for combat, when she crashed her F-14 Tomcat into the sea on final approach to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). A formal investigation found that the cause of the crash was pilot error.
Hultgreen was born on October 5, 1965, in Greenwich, Connecticut, and raised in both Chicago and Toronto. Hultgreen moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1981. She attended Alamo Heights High School and received a congressional nomination to the Naval Academy but failed to win an appointment. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Aerospace Engineering.
Hultgreen was commissioned through the Aviation Officer Candidate School at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Upon graduation (ranked third of seven in her class) she was assigned to Aviation Training Wing Four based at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. Following designation as a naval aviator, she received orders to fly EA-6A Prowlers with VAQ-33 at NAS Key West, Florida. Upon the Navy's integration of women in combat in 1993, LT Hultgreen was selected to be among the first female pilots to undergo F-14 Tomcat training at Miramar Naval Air Station, San Diego.
While with Fleet Replacement Squadron VF-124, Hultgreen failed her first attempt at carrier qualification. Hultgreen successfully carrier-qualified during a second period aboard USS Constellation (CV-64) in the summer of 1994, becoming the first "combat qualified" female Naval Aviator. She was assigned to the Black Lions of VF-213 and began preparations for deployment to the Persian Gulf.
Her call signs were initially "Hulk" or "She-Hulk", for her ability to bench-press 200 lbs, her 6-foot (1.8 m) frame, and a play on her surname of Hultgreen. But after a television appearance in which she wore detectable makeup, her colleagues bestowed a new and more feminine call sign, "Revlon."
On October 25, 1994, Hultgreen was killed when her F-14A, BuNo 160390, crashed on approach to USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego after a routine mission. Finding herself overshooting the centerline, Hultgreen attempted to correct her approach by yawing the aircraft. This led to the left-hand engine suffering a compressor stall and lost power—a well-known deficiency characteristic of the TF30-P-414A engine when inlet air was no longer flowing straight into it. The F-14 NATOPS flight manual warned against excess yaw for this reason. Loss of an F-14 engine results in asymmetric thrust, which can exceed rudder authority, especially at low speeds.
After aborting the approach, Hultgreen selected full afterburner on the remaining engine, causing an even greater asymmetry. This, combined with a high angle of attack, caused an unrecoverable approach turn stall and rapid wing drop to the left. The radar intercept officer (RIO) in the rear seat, Lt. Matthew Klemish, initiated ejection for himself and Hultgreen as soon as it was apparent that the aircraft was becoming uncontrollable. First in the automated ejection sequence, the RIO survived. However, by the time Hultgreen's seat fired 0.4s later, the plane had rolled past the horizontal, and she was ejected downward into the water. She was killed instantly. The entire event unfolded in less than 20 seconds.
On November 12, 19 days after the crash, the Navy salvaged the plane and recovered her body, still strapped into the ejection seat. The wreckage was in 3,700 feet (1,100 m) of water. On November 21, she was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, with full military honors. The F-14A lost in the mishap, BuNo 160390, had been one of the two involved in the Gulf of Sidra incident of 1981.
As is standard practice in fatal mishaps, separate Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Naval Safety Center Mishap investigations were conducted. The JAG report cited mechanical malfunction as the primary cause, and this became the official Navy position to the public.
The Mishap Investigation Report (MIR) came to a different conclusion, however, citing pilot error as the primary factor. Navy MIRs (now called Safety Investigation Reports) are rarely made public. Rumors abounded that the investigation had found pilot error to be a contributing factor, despite a Navy press release to the contrary. The privileged report was later leaked by someone with access to it.
As with most approaches to a carrier landing, Hultgreen's incident was videotaped by two cameras. The tape shows an overshooting turn onto final, then apparent engine failure, followed by an audible wave-off and gear-up command from the landing signal officer. Segments shown on broadcast television concluded with the rapid sequence of aircraft stall, roll, crew ejections, and impact with the water.
- Manegold, Catherine S. (January 1, 1995). "LIVES WELL LIVED: KARA S. HULTGREEN; The Short Flight of a Fighter Pilot". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- Thompson, Mark (August 17, 2010). "Navy Man Claims Aviator Call Signs Get Too Personal". Time. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
- www.gxs.net. "Center for Military Readiness | CMR Court Victory". Cmrlink.org. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
- "Kara Spears Hultgreen, Lieutenant, United States Navy". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2006-07-25.
- Sally Spears (1998). Call Sign Revlon: The Life and Death of Navy Fighter Pilot Kara Hultgreen. Naval Institute Press.