SAN DIEGO (AP) — Marines knew five months before a military jet crashed into a home and killed four members of a family that the aircraft may have trouble getting fuel from tank to engine.
That ignored warning was only one misstep in what the Marines called a string of bad decisions that led the F/A-18D Hornet to slam into a densely populated residential neighborhood Dec. 8.
Low oil pressure killed the first engine shortly after takeoff, the Marines said Tuesday. The jet crashed with about 340 gallons of fuel that were choked off from the second engine, causing a fiery explosion that torched two homes and came close to a high school.
Potential problems with the plane's fuel transfer surfaced in July, but the Marines sent the aircraft on another 146 flights before it crashed, said Col. John Rupp, operations officer for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
The dozens of successful flights after the warning "lured the maintenance personnel into a state of complacency," Rupp said.
Military investigators faulted officers at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for clearing the pilot, Lt. Dan Neubauer, to land at the inland base instead of the closest landing at a coastal Navy base — a route that also would have avoided flying over homes.
They also criticized the pilot for neglecting to consult a checklist of emergency procedures and failing to grasp the severity of his problems.
The military disciplined 13 members of the Marines and Navy for a series of errors that led to the crash, including four officers who were relieved of their duties. Investigators found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.