Pilot error caused the midair collision of two Navy Blue Angel jets in January, but the pilot was not negligent and will not be disciplined, the Navy has ruled. Marine Corps Maj. Charles "Chase" Moseley, 34, was faulted for the Jan. 23 collision with Blue Angels leader Cmdr. Pat Moneymaker, 43, near the tream's winter practice airfield at El Centro, Calif., according to a Navy report of the accident. The News Journal received a copy of the report Tuesday after filing a request for the document through the Freedom of Information Act. The accident happened during an afternoon training flight in which Moseley attempted to "clear" or leave a formation because of control problems. Moseley told investigators that as he tried to clear the formation he realized his F/A-18 Hornet was too close to Moneymaker's plane, and seconds later the aircraft collided. However, the investigation report specifically recommended Moseley not be punished because he was not negligent, and he followed proper procedures before and during the accident. That recommendation was endorsed by Moneymaker; Rear Adm. Jimmie Taylor, chief of naval air training; and Vice Adm. John Disher, chief of naval eduction and training. The report also recommended more flexibility in the training procedure to allow more room for the pilots to "clear" the maneuvers. Moneymaker said Tuesday that had been done. The collision was so violent the pair of twin-engined jets actually became locked to one another for about four seconds before Moseley ejected from his aircraft, freeing the two jets. Moseley's aircraft flew upside down for several miles before the left wing fell off and the jet crashed and was destroyed on federal land near the base, according to the investigation. Moneymaker's aircraft sustained heavy damage to the right wing, but he made a safe emergency landing at El Centro. Moneymaker's aircraft had the entire right wing replaced at a cost of $188,255.00, according to an estimate prepared by Blue Angel's maintenance crew and included in the report. At the time of the accident, Moneymaker had been commanding officer of the Blue Angels for more than a year. Moseley has been a pilot in the Marine Corps since 1980. Moseley had joined the Blue Angels about four months before the crash and had only 61 flying hours with the team. The accident happened during the first of three "fan break," designed to have four aircraft in a diamond formation, in a constant left bank between 50 to 55 degrees descending down to no less than 150 feet off the ground and then up with all four jets trailing smoke. Moseley was working on a smoothness problem that was aesthetic and not a safety concern, and exciting the maneuver, the investigation concluded. Moseley was to Moneymaker's right and slightly low and to the rear. Shortly after Moseley positioned the craft, he noticed his aircraft was moving slightly up and down and his attempts to smooth the movements only seemed to aggravate them. He radioed "Chase (his call sign) is clear," according to the investigation. As Moseley attempted to clear the formation, he realized his jet was too close to Moneymaker's. The two aircraft locked together and then suddenly rolled further left to about 150 degrees left bank, headed down at about 20 to 30 degrees, Moseley said. Sitting upside down, seeing the desert through his canopy, and not getting a response from his aircraft, Moseley ejected. The Blue Angel season was not affected by the accident. The team is scheduled to do two shows this weekend in Portland, Ore. They are scheduled to perform an airshow over Pensacola Beach on July 14.
Newspaper clipping submitted by Linda Moneymaker/Iversen