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Gut punch – UPDATE March 7, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, General Catholic, sadness.
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I’m at a loss.  I lost a friend yesterday.  I found out today. I never met him.  But I’ve read his words for years, and he was the finest milblogger out there.  He died yesterday doing what he loved, what he felt compelled to do even after he left the service – flying military jets in a serious training/pseudo-combat environment.  His jet crashed in a snowstorm at NAS Fallon, NV.

The internet is a funny thing.  You feel like you get to know someone very well even if you never meet them.  As I have related on this blog, before my conversion I was about as serious an “amateur” student of military affairs as one could be.  That same passion that fuels my current love for the Faith was present in a primordial form with regard to military technology, history, etc.  But since my conversion, I stopped reading all the military stuff except that one blog, the best one, Neptunus Lex.  Reading him, I am convinced that Lex was a very good and decent man, profoundly patriotic and a devoted husband, father, and Christian. Oh his poor wife and children. His son is training to be a Navy helo pilot.  He also has two daughters, one of which has had serious problems that I can very well relate to.  What a tragedy.

I could tell, reading his posts since he started working for Airborne Tactical Advantage Company, that he never fully trusted that Israeli-made derivative of the Mirage III – the Kfir C.2.  I actually asked him last week why his company flew an aircraft that was so problematic.  I guess it was cheap, I don’t know, I don’t believe he responded.  It had a seat.  But the news says he crashed inside the perimter fence of NAS Fallon, so he must have been coming in to land.  It was snowing and foggy.  That damned Kfir had virtually no modern aids to fly in that kind of situation.  So, he bought the farm, trying to land it.  Uff da.  I am at a loss.

Resquiat In Pacem.  God Speed, Capt. Carroll LeFon, USN, Ret.

Steeljaw Scribe, another really good milblogger, shares these thoughts:

We have lost a friend, a father, husband — a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of TOPGUN’s adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon.  No word on the cause as yet.  Prayers and thoughts go out to his family — please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.

Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot.  And he was an accomplished one at that – having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say…).  He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships – befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator.  And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people.  Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation.

Even so, what really set Lex apart was his eloquence, obvious love of the classics and an abilty to turn a phrase that would do his Irish ancestors proud.  Anyone who has spent time in the air or at sea comes to appreciate the change in perspective those alluring mistresses offer and how they come to change you.  It is the rare person, however, who is able to more than adequately express and convey that imagery, that perspective.  Lex was one of those rare individuals and you could readily see it in his work – almost all of which he shared gratis online.  Whether it was a semi-fictional account of a young aviator wrestling with carrier flight ops or surgical disection of a controversial subject, his wit, grace and command of the language marked him as a finely honed rapier in a field cluttered with dull broadswords and broken battle axes.  And it will be missed.

Videos of Lex flying at Fallon, doing what he loved:

I will add Capt. LeFon to the list of names of the deceased I pray for every night.

I just saw this on another blog:

This is apparently his crash.  If so, his drag chute failed to deploy properly, again (for he blogged about that happening just yesterday), and he may have gotten caught in a dead man’s corner where he couldn’t take off and couldn’t bring the Kfir, which lands at an incredibly high speed, to a stop in time.  Looks like he ran off the runway.  I don’t know if the seat in a Kfir is zero-zero to make ejection a possiblity in that condition.

UPDATE: Commenter Quartermaster, who I believe is a regular at Neptunus Lex, notes that there are no buildings on the approach ends of any of the runways (indeed, I should have noted that, buildings are almost never placed near approach ends in case of overruns, but I was thinking he might have been in a high speed ground loop or skid and gone off to the side), and that GCA may have caused him to overshoot due to unfamiliarity with the high speed approach and landing characteristics of the Kfir (another frequent problem Lex had reported) and landed him on a taxiway.  If that’s the case, and visibility was bad, he may have been in a very bad place from the beginning.

I think now about the growing sense of foreboding I had developed when reading Lex describe his missions in the Kfir.  As time went by, I became more and more unsettled, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Reading about all the problems he had with the plane – which really weren’t that minor – and the problems the ground controllers had, I blew them off at the time, but I had this dark sense that I couldn’t shake.  I guess now I know why.  Some at Lex’s have even wondered aloud, if you will, that Lex documented all the numerous problems he had with the Kfir (very limited avioinics, no HUD, no nose wheel steering, very fast landing speed, maintenance problems, failed rain seal on the canopy, failed drag chute deployment, repeated overshoots caused by ground controlled approach misjudging his approach speed – and all in 5 months!) for a certain purpose.  I don’t know.  Two days later, I’m still very distressed.

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Comments

1. Old School Gamer Dad - March 7, 2012

I am sorry for your loss. May his soul be at rest with the Lord.

2. Quartermaster - March 7, 2012

It’s worse than you think. There are no buildings in the overrun areas of any of the 6 runways. The building he hit was off the end of the western taxiway to the N-S parallel runways. A friend recognized the building. It appears that Ground Control Approach (GCA) screwed the pooch on this one. Not only did they have him overshoot, the put him on the taxiway to boot. Give visibility it is probable that he did not recognize he was on the taxiway until it was too late. he normally didn’t deploy the chute until he was down for a bit. It is a bad indicator of the situation he found himself.

It’s bad enough to buy it from your own mistake. Worse when you are dependent upon someone else. Apparently the Israeli Lawn Dart does not have the full suite of instrument approach electronics. If he had both ILS and localizer indicators, then he probably would still be alive.

tantamergo - March 7, 2012

Thanks, QM, I’ll update the post.

3. hornetgunner - March 8, 2012

QM is right if you google nas fallon you can see that NE of the end of runway 13R there is an AC parking apron at the end of the taxiway. At the end of the apron there is an black area adjacent to the Weapons Delivery Rd and it has a low bldg with flat white roof. This resembles bldg in photo of crash. I don’t see how he could have been landing on 310L and ended that far to the west. Sure appears that he was landing on the taxi way. Don’t think it was GCA, no antennas, looks like storage bldg to me.


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