In Honor of the T-39 Crew

by Steve on January 16, 2006

We lost another crew last week.

Not a space shuttle crew or even a frontline crew in Iraq but we, the nation, lost four more. Two student navigators, an instructor, and a retired military contract pilot went down in a Navy T-39 Sabreliner over a remote area in Georgia. Unfortunately there were no survivors. The members of the crew were all attached to Training Squadron 86 out of Pensacola, Florida, which is responsible for the intermediate and advanced training of both Navy and Air Force navigators. Based on press reports the jet was last heard from just prior to entering a military low-level training route. For some reason it never reached the “target”. The accident is still under investigation.

The jet was on a “routine training mission”. But anything can go terribly wrong and it happens quickly in the low-level environment. It may have been training but lives were still at stake. Granted there was nobody on the ground shooting back but the crew was training to visually navigate to a target. The goal was to develop that critical skill and eventually put it to use in a tactical aircraft with live weapons. That goal implies a defended target and all the risk associated with going “feet dry” over enemy territory.

Every time our young men and women strap into an aircraft they risk their lives so that the rest of us don’t have to. It’s a dangerous business. Every aviator that flies for our country knows this. They hope and pray that a combination of skill and luck will get them through each mission but it doesn’t always work out that way. They accept this as part of the job. They don’t do it for the money unlike many of the very people they serve. They fly for the honor, for the satisfaction of being a part of something greater than themselves.

Regardless of our political or ideological beliefs let’s take a moment to honor these four individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf – not just their country’s. Killed in the service of their grateful nation on January 10, 2006:

CDR Dave Roark, USN (Retired), Contract Pilot, 68, Pensacola, FL
LT Jason S. Manse, USN, 30, Canton, OH
ENS Elizabeth Bonn, USN, 23, Wilkes-Barre, PA
1LT Jason W. Davis, USAF, 28, Vista, CA

We lost fathers, sons, and daughters. We lost brothers, sisters, and husbands. We lost friends and fellow aviators. We lost priceless knowledge, experience, and an irreplaceable chunk of the future. The only possible consolation is the knowledge that these four left us doing what they loved to do.


Belle January 17, 2006 at 8:28

to think, this incident involved my hometown and i didn’t even know about it…very nice piece, steve.

BobA6BN January 30, 2006 at 18:55

Saw this news a few weeks ago. As a former student at VT 10 and 86 (1974-75) and instructor at VT 10 (1978-81) I always note ‘training accidents’as much as I do operational incidents. As a career B/N, there is no difference, as all of the losses are in the service of our country. The problem with training accidents is that no-one seems to see that fact. Always sorry for any loss. Fair winds and God bless.

Keri March 12, 2006 at 6:52

Do you know what happened with the investigation? I found your blog looking for information, I was friends with Beth a few years back. I haven’t found anything after the release of names.

Would you email me if you know anything, please? Thanks =0)


Rosina July 31, 2008 at 7:41

Your guestbook is example of middle-class guestbooks. Congratulation! I’ll show your site and guestbook to my friends.

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