||This article possibly contains original research. (January 2014)|
|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||1987–94|
Kara Spears Hultgreen (October 5, 1965–October 25, 1994), was a lieutenant and Naval Aviator in the United States Navy and the first female carrier-based fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. 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.
During her Naval Aviation career, Hultgreen had accumulated four "downs," or major errors in flight training. Normally, in accordance with Naval Air Training Command standards, having more than two "downs" in Navy undergraduate flight training would be enough to permanently prevent someone from becoming a Naval Aviator. However, two of her downs were incurred in fleet replacement training, after she had graduated from advanced naval flight training under the cognizance of the Naval Air Training Command and received her wings. As such, because the fleet replacement squadrons fall under the cognizance of the Atlantic or Pacific fleets, the latter two downs did not technically meet the "three and done" standard common in the training command.
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 did not 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, where she was a Distinguished Naval Graduate. Upon graduation (ranked third of seven in her class) she was assigned to Training Air Wing FOUR at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas for primary flight trainng in the T-34C Turbomentor. Screened for the Strike Pilot training piepline, she underwent follow-on training in the T-2C Buckeye and TA-4J Skyhawk II with Training Air Wing THREE at NAS Chase Field, Texas.
Following designation as a Naval Aviator, she received orders to fly EA-6A Prowlers with Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron THIRTY-THREE (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 NAS Miramar, California.
While with Pacific Fleet F-14 Fleet Replacement Squadron, Fighter Squadron 124 (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. Upon completion of the VF-124 Category I fleet replacement pilot syllabus, she was assigned to the Black Lions of Fighter Squadron 213 (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."
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On October 25, 1994, Hultgreen was killed when her F-14A, BuNo 160390, crashed on approach to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) off the coast of San Diego after a routine training mission. Finding herself overshooting the landing area 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 F-14A's 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, Lieutenant 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 0.4 seconds 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 when it was previously assigned to Fighter Squadron 41 (VF-41) at NAS Oceana, Virginia and embarked with Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8) aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68).
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.[dead link]
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.
- Spears, Sally (1998). Call Sign Revlon: The Life and Death of Navy Fighter Pilot Kara Hultgreen. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-809-7.
- 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.