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More Than a Few Good Men

The Vertical Vision / Part Iii: Casualties

December 17, 2002

Campbell died of a broken neck when his seat unexpectedly ejected during a training flight over Pamlico County, N.C.

Lt. Steven J. Chetneky, a Marine flight surgeon in the other seat of the TAV-8A training plane, also died in the crash.

Investigators blamed the accident on a small, undetected fracture in the acrylic canopy that gave way under the pressure of flight. The canopy shattered, triggering the ejection seat. Investigators recommended that maintenance workers begin inspecting TAV-8A canopies weekly.

Campbell was born in Cahokia, Ill., to an Ogallala Sioux mother and Air Force veteran father. He attended Parks College of Aeronautics in Cahokia, then enlisted in the Marines. He and his wife, Nancy Campbell Jobin, had two sons, ages 7 and 9 at the time of the crash.

"I know wholeheartedly that if Dan had known on Aug. 12, 1987, what was going to happen, he wouldn't have changed a single thing that he did," she said. "He was dedicated to his country and to the Marine Corps and that in itself gives me some comfort."

Campbell was 33.



Died: Aug. 12, 1987

He was the flight surgeon catching a ride in the rear seat of the TAV-8A Harrier training plane piloted by Capt. Campbell. As the aircraft plummeted, Chetneky ejected too late, and his seat hit the ground before his parachute could open.

Thirty-seven years earlier, when Chetneky was 7 months old, his father was killed in the crash of his F-86 Sabre Jet at the end of a routine flight in California.

Chetneky's mother, Irene, remembered her son as a compassionate child who brought home stray animals that inevitably became family pets. "We had dogs, birds, fish, turtles, rabbits," she said.

He attended college and medical school in New Jersey then joined the Navy. Like other flight surgeons, who perform a variety of medical duties in their squadrons, he occasionally took back-seat training flights to become accustomed to the plane.




Call Sign: Skivvies Died: March 1, 1988

Scrivenor had a photographic memory and was constantly studying the Harrier training manual, said his widow, Sharman Scrivenor. That's why family members found the circumstances surrounding his death so befuddling.

He died while flying his AV-8B during an air-to-air combat training run that caused violent G-forces to snap his spinal cord in two places. His plane crashed in the Neuse River near Cherry Point.

An investigation concluded that Scrivenor, 28, had been flying too fast and may have improperly switched off the roll-stabilization system. Even so, the report made a point of commending him as an "aggressive and knowledgeable" pilot.

Sharman Scrivenor remains convinced the plane malfunctioned. She said her husband had not wanted to fly the Harrier because of its safety record. But once assigned to it, he devoted himself to learning how to fly it well, she said.

He was a perfectionist by nature, who made himself good at anything he tried, she said, whether cabinetmaking, landscaping, tennis or trick water skiing. He grew up in Columbia, S.C., and graduated from Virginia Tech, where he and Sharman met. They had been married for five years.



Call Sign: Toad Died: July 13, 1988

The flaps malfunctioned on Dale's AV-8B Harrier seconds after takeoff from Cherry Point. As he lost control, the plane tore through a tree line, hit the ground and exploded.

An investigation concluded that an electrical short caused the flaps to fail. But the report also blamed Dale for not landing the crippled plane safely, and noted that he waited too long to eject.

Dale's father, Jim P. Dale, said his son was tired that morning because he and his wife, Tami, had been up much of the night with their sick 4-month-old baby.

But the elder Dale resents the finding of pilot error.

"I think it was just an extremely complex dadgum aircraft with extremely complex avionics in it," the father said.

Dale, 26, was president of the senior class at his Texas high school and an all-star football player, family members said. He attended Baylor University, where he studied business before joining the Marines.

"Every time we'd talk and say goodbye, the last thing I'd say was, 'Kerry, fly safe,' " his father said. "And he'd say, 'I will, Pop.' "


1st LT. JAMES T.


Call Sign: Bullet Died: May 3, 1989

Richards apparently didn't set his AV-8B's nozzles properly during a short takeoff and lost control during the complicated maneuver. He tried to eject but the plane was in the process of flipping.

The lead investigator found that Richards made mistakes because he was "task overloaded" and feeling rushed by his recent transfer from a training squadron to his new flight squadron.

But the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing later rejected that finding and called Richards, who had flown only 77.9 hours in the Harrier, "a competent, though inexperienced pilot." The crash was attributed to pilot error.

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