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THE VERTICAL VISION

More Than a Few Good Men

The Vertical Vision / Part Iii: Casualties

December 17, 2002

Davis died four months later. His AV-8A Harrier rolled and crashed on Feb. 13, 1975, during a vertical takeoff at Cherry Point. He was 27.

A flashlight left in the engine bay or contamination of the hydraulic system could have caused the accident, investigators said.

Three more pilots in his squadron were killed in Harriers over the next four years. "I was shocked and amazed when I heard that," Kennedy said. "I just thought, 'Is this never going to stop?' "

*

CAPT. CLEVE B. DOSTER

Died: July 3, 1975

Doster, 26, was flying a training sortie with Maj. Woody F. Gilliland, who was in his own Harrier. Gilliland's plane lost power because of a mechanical problem and he ejected successfully, parachuting into a cotton field near Bennetsville, S.C. Soon afterward, Doster's Harrier crashed into trees. The cause could not be determined, but officials assume he lost control while trying to locate Gilliland for rescuers.

A bright, gregarious and athletic Marine with a compact 5-foot-7 frame, Doster came from a remarkable military family.

His father, Col. Grover Cleveland Doster, was a Marine aviator who flew in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, then served as a White House naval aide during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

Cleve Doster held a bachelor's degree in engineering from Georgia Tech and a master's in aeronautical engineering from the University of West Florida. He dreamed of being an astronaut. He had been married for three years.

"He had always wanted to fly and his idea of flight was real fast flight," said his younger brother, David Doster.

*

CAPT. DONALD P.

KALTENBAUGH

Call Sign: K-10 Died: Dec. 16, 1976

Kaltenbaugh's AV-8A crashed into the Sea of Japan during a training flight.

His widow, Judy Kaltenbaugh, said the Marines told her he became disoriented in the fog. "I was told he got turned upside-down and instead of pulling up, he plunged down into the water."

A graduate of Cal Poly Pomona, he flew other aircraft before training on the Harrier in January 1976. "Donnie lived and breathed to fly," his widow said.

At the time he died, his oldest daughter was 4 and his twin girls were 1 1/2. "The most tragic part about this is that they didn't know him," Judy Kaltenbaugh said. "He adored them."

Kaltenbaugh was 29.

*

1st LT. THOMAS J. EVANS

Died: April 6, 1977

Heavy crosswinds battered the runway as Evans set out to practice a vertical takeoff in his AV-8A in Beaufort, S.C.

A novice Harrier pilot, Evans, 25, had a hard time controlling the plane in previous attempts. Now, with the wind whipping around him, he lifted his plane off the runway, hovered and lost control as he tried to accelerate into conventional flight. The plane rolled to the left, dropped nose down and bounced so hard on the ground that it detonated Evans' ejection seat. He died of a skull fracture and internal injuries.

The investigation described Evans as "an inexperienced first-tour aviator" and suggested that pilot error caused the crash. But the report also found fault with the decision to let Evans take off in heavy winds.

He was married and had a 2-year-old son. A scholarship was named for Evans at his New Jersey high school, where he was an athlete who made top grades, said his brother, David Evans.

*

CAPT. TIMOTHY C. KREPPS

Call Sign: Tango Charlie Died: July 12, 1977

Krepps crashed into the Atlantic during a demonstration for several high-ranking government officials, including Navy Secretary W. Graham Claytor Jr. and Bert Lance, then director of the Office of Management and Budget.

"It was a horrific sort of thing," recalled Lance, who was on board the carrier Saratoga with the other observers. "They were giving some kind of flyby demonstration and maybe a firing demonstration. It was out on the horizon. You could see him disappear."

The investigative report found that Krepps, 30, "became disoriented" and may have been confused by clouds or distracted by cockpit tasks. Little of the AV-8A was found, and Krepps was lost at sea. He was married and had two sons, 7 and 9 at the time.

"He was really gung-ho about learning to fly the Harrier," said Krepps' sister, Judy Corcoran. "He understood the complex nature of it. And he was a bit afraid of it, especially when these accidents started happening."

*

CAPT. ANTHONY

FRANOVICH JR.

Call Sign: Bayou Died: July 26, 1977

Franovich was the first in his large, extended Cajun family to explore life beyond the oil rigs off Louisiana's Gulf Coast, said his widow, Pam Franovich Kinard. After graduating from Louisiana State University, he joined the Marines and flew F-4 Phantoms. He requested a transfer to the Harrier program in North Carolina shortly after they lost their 2-week-old firstborn child, she said.

One day the base commander dropped in on a meeting of officers' wives. "He and the chaplain told us that they knew there were a lot of fears, but we needed to support our husbands," Kinard said. "They brought out a wife whose husband had to eject from the Harrier but survived. He died later in another Harrier accident."

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