Home » Aviation » UPDATED: Navy Identifies Pilot Killed During New Mexico Test Flight


UPDATED: Navy Identifies Pilot Killed During New Mexico Test Flight

An Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano A-29 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range in 2017. US Air Force Photo

This post has been updated to include additional details on Lt. Short’s service.

The Navy has identified the pilot of an Embraer A-29 Super Tucano who died on Friday following a crash over the White Sands Missile Range near Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

Lt. Christopher Carey Short, of Canandaigua, N.Y., was flying a mission over White Sand’s Red Rio Bombing Range when his prop-driven light attack aircraft crashed about 1:30 p.m. EST. Both Short and a second crew member ejected from the aircraft, according to press reports. The second crew member suffered minor injuries. Short was an active duty aviator assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12, a reserve unit based in Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.

The flight was part of the Air Force’s ongoing Light Attack Experiment (OA-X) that is currently testing the A-29 and the Textron Aviation AT-6B Wolverine to see if a low-cost attack aircraft could replace higher-cost Air Force assets for certain missions. The Air Force canceled a series of test flights on Friday as a result of the crash.

“There’s no way to describe the shock of this loss and the sadness we feel for his family,” said Col. Houston Cantwell, commander of Holloman’s 49th Wing said in an Air Force statement. “He did pioneering work in aviation that will help shape American air power for years to come. We’re thankful to have known him and grateful for his devotion to duty.”

A request for additional information on Short’s role in the OA-X testing was not immediately returned by an Air Force spokesman.

The crash is now under investigation.

Short comissioned in 2008 and flew in F/A-18 strike fighter squadrons before reporting to VFC-12 in 2015.

The following is the complete June 23, 2018 statement from the Navy.

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) — The U.S. Navy announced June 23 the death of a Navy pilot who was involved in a mishap at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Lt. Christopher Carey Short, from Canandaigua, New York, died June 22 when the A-29 aircraft he was piloting crashed while on a mission over the Red Rio Bombing Range, part of White Sands Missile Range, north of Holloman.

The cause of the mishap is under investigation.

  • Duane

    Condolences to the aviator’s family.

    Curious – why a Navy pilot of an AF aircraft?

    Unfortunate that the AF is wasting money, time, and now lives on an aircraft that will end up being dubbed a “crew killer.” The antiquated notion of “uncontested airspace” is already an anachronisn today when Russia and Iran are busy selling, delivering, and in many cases operating sophisticated mobile air defense systems (S-300s and S-400s) throughout the middle east. In Syria the airspace that the US dominates is but a small slice of that slice of desert.

    • CDbro

      The Navy uses the T-6B as a primary trainer. It already has a pretty good safety record. This attack variant is to see if we can employ a cost effective aircraft to provide close air support.

      • DaSaint

        Duane’s comment was with regards to the service branch of the aviator, not in regards to any particular aircraft. His point is this is an Air Force program requirement, not USN/USMC.

        • CDbro

          Well, it’s not uncommon for people to get interservice billets, so I don’t get why it’s so strange to you that he was working with the AF. On top of that, your comment of low and slow is no place for a pilot is just ridiculous. Thousands of pilots fly helicopters which are much more vulnerable than a turbo prop aircraft capable of cruise flight of over than 240kias.

          • Duane

            I am acknowledging 21st century reality, while you apparently still believe it is the 20th century. We are already transitioning into using unmanned helicopters to replace manned … The Navy already operates two of them today (MQ-8 B and C), and the multi service Future Vertical Lift program mandates the ability to operate that family of aircraft optionally unmanned. Manned attack helicopters can operate safely only if we have uncontested control of airspace.

            High, fast, and stealthy already works extremely well. We already routinely drop ordinance on bad guys using extremely precise targeting to within as little as 15 yards from own forces. Using glide bombs launched from tens of miles away. These are far more effective and safer than the 30 mm gun on the A-10 can do, or the chain gun on an Apache can do.

          • CDbro

            Dude, I’m a pilot in the community that flies the Firescout. In no way, shape, or form, is it planned for manned helos to go away. I really don’t know what I said to make you go all high and left on this, but please calm down.

          • Duane

            You are the one needing calming, as you are obviously reacting emotionally to the ongoing unmanned revolution which many if not most current pilots oppose as a threat to their way of life.

            BTW, I did not say manned choppers will go away. But for high risk missions the military will eventually go optionally unmanned. We already have the technical capability to do that today, it is just matter of implementation.

            That is why the multi-service FVL program mandates optionally unmanned for all of the 5 variants. Ditto for the next generation of fixed wing warbirds. The B-21 design is already established to feature optionally unmanned ops. Virtually everyone in the warbird aviation community believes that the F-35 will be the last solely-manned multi-role fighter produced by the US.

          • DaSaint

            I don’t recall making a comment on low and slow, but your explanation of the intraservice billets makes sense.

        • SN

          My understanding is the Marines are looking for a cheap JTAC trainer, and either plane would work.

      • Duane

        Yes, and my point, besides condolences for the pilot killed, is that a low cost CAS aircraft is an idea whose time is past. Low, slow, non-stealthy – no matter how cheap – is no place for an American pilot.

        Effective ground support is more effectively and much more safely performed up high, fast, and stealthy … or if low and slow, by UAS. Uncontested airspace is disappearing fast, even in insurgent wars where ragtag rebels are armed with Buk SAMs, Iranian S-300s, Chinese C-802 ASCMs, and Iranian ballistic missiles. We aren’t fighting camel drivers with AK-47s any more.

        • tiger

          Then explain why we are wasting time on Army Aviation? The A 29 is basically doing the job Apaches should do.

        • USNVO

          So where are these SAMs and Ballistic Missiles in Afghanistan? Where the USAF regularly deploy B-1s, B-52s, F-22s, F-15Es, A-10s and F-16s, the USN regularly employs F-18s from CVNs no less, and the USMC regularly uses AV-8Bs. The Afghan Air Force, rarely using guided bombs, has operated their A-29s with virtual impunity. Or Iraq, where the Iraqi Air Force has operated their Combat Caravans with equal impunity. In virtually any situation where the host nation is doing COIN and the US is doing FID, these aircraft are far better than anything else because they can very easily be transferred to the host nation. You can’t really do that with a drone or fighter. It is the same argument for the LCS, do the low end missions that AEGIS ships are massive overkill for to allow the AEGIS ships to do the high end missions they can’t do when they are chasing pirates, drug runners, or terrorist smugglers.

      • RunningBear

        I expect CAS to be defined (who, what, when, where and how) after the much vaunted IOT&E A-10 vs. F-35A/B/C competition. Until then, whatever is flying nearby with the required ordnance will be called in to support the ground troops as usual (today).
        IMHO
        🙂

        • Duane

          That competition is worthless and nothing but a political joke ordered by pork barrel Congressmen, and representing 20th century thinking while we are already far into the 21st century.

          • Curtis Conway

            You are starting to scare me Duane. I’m agreeing with you way too much! CAS aircraft should at least have two engines.

          • Duane

            Thank you Curtis. We are opponents when it comes to LCS, but I actually agree with you most of the time on just about any other subject.

            I expect that manned low and slow CAS is going to disappear within a decade, with the low and slow stuff being picked up by UAS, some of which will be under the direct control of ground troops.

            People forget how fast warfare changes. My dad was a horse cavalry trooper in 1930, just a handful of years before Germany’s Panzer divisions completely rewrote the book on maneuver warfare. The war opened with 1920s and 1930s aircraft, tanks, ships, and subs … and ended just a few years later with radical new weapons and platforms and tactics that never before existed, or never before were practiced as a practical warfighting tactic (like aerial bombing of cities), though we all take them for granted today.

            Warfare is going to change at least as fast as that in the next decade.

          • SN

            When do we plan on mounting guns on UAV’s?
            Too many people see CAS as nothing more then dropping bombs.
            The A-10 is great at CAS not because it has a 30MM cannon, but because it carries more ammo then any other asset, and has a quicker re-attack ability then faster aircraft.
            Danger close with a cannon is closer then danger close with a bomb.

          • Curtis Conway

            AMEN!

          • Duane

            Guns are poor CAS weapons, actually. Guns only work at low altitude, at very short range (2 miles max), require good visibility, and no clouds below the shooter, and are line of sight only (no shooting around obstacles). Guns are also not precision guided, and even a 30 mm projectile delivers minor effects on the target compared to even the smallest blast frag munitions. Also, it is too easy to err and attack friendlies with a manually aimed gun.

            For all those reasons, gun shooters are obvious sitting ducks for ground base counter fire, via guns or missiles, and their effect on target is limited.

            Precision guided weapons today are vastly improved from what we had even a decade ago, when all we had were laser guided bombs and unguided rockets, and these new gen weaps eliminate all of the disadvantages of guns listed above.

            Today our precision guided munitions can be launched from up to 40+ nm distant and from way up high in the flight levels, safe from enemy counterfires … And be delivered to within 1 meter of the target. We now routinely deliver such munitions with safety to within as little as 15 m from friendly forces. The effects on target vary enormously, depending upon size and warhead type. And precision guided munitions can navigate around obstacles, unlike gun rounds

          • tiger

            Not really. For that last 17 years the job has been done by numerous other planes. The A-10 just has the fan club.

          • Curtis Conway

            As George S. Patton demonstrated for us, Cavalry Soldiers were perfect for upgrading their ride, and increases in lethality. They already knew how to read long range maps, and were always looking for more firepower to carry with them as they patrolled aggressively, looking for targets. Fighter Pilots of the land.

            Having performed ASW I can tell you that the skimmers and targets need as quiet a propulsion system as they can manage to perform that mission. There is the aspect of not being tracked by your prey, or being targeted by them and/or avoiding you because you make so much noise. The submariners really like the LCS skimmers/targets. That steaming volcano on the surface can be hear from quite a range.

          • Duane

            You obviously don’t understand sound propagation in water vs. air. The sound heard in air of a waterjet is NOT the sound heard in water on sonar devices. The LCS waterjet is actually far quieter underwater than any destroyer or frigate open bladed prop – because the water jet does not cavitate at any speed, while open bladed (unshrouded) props cavitate like heck at high speeds.

            Cavitating props generate the strongest, longest distance sonar energy possible. Cavitation is literally a high frequency explosion … vapor bubbles created at prop tips then collapse violently, so violently that the collapsing bubbles literally destroy the surface of the prop blade, creating pits over time that in turn create more turbulent water flow that in turn creates even more underwater noise by the prop.

            A cavitating destroyer or frigate prop is easily heard from tens of miles away on even old WW2 sonars, and closer aboard, even by sub crew members through the hull.

            A water jet is far quieter under water – where it counts – than any open bladed prop. That is why the Navy went to pump jet propulsors on the Virginia class SSNs and some of the later 688s, to make the boats quieter than with the old 7-bladed screws used on the 637 class. They are similar to the LCS water jet, hydrodynamically, in that both propulsors use shrouded impellers to prevent cavitation, rather than open bladed props. The difference between the two propulsors is that a submarine pump jet takes its inlet flow from outside the hull, immediately in advance of the propulsor … while a waterjet propulsor takes its imput from a hull opening passing through a tuned plenum interior to the hull. Also, the waterjet is used to direct the thrust angularly, providing greater maneuverability, while the submarine pump jet propulsor does not.

            Again, don’t fall for believing the “whish sound” heard in air, which does not transmit and propagate through water, is what a sub hears on sonar. It does not.

          • Curtis Conway

            Ask a submariner!

          • RunningBear

            ….or ask a submarine hunter! As I indicated in an earlier discussion, I am anxiously awaiting the latest ASW technology in the LCS module and in particular the latest fiber-optic towed array coupled with the pump jet. Having multiple fixes from a networked ASW system of subs, destroyers and LCS will allow localization of an enema sub more accurately and faster. The MQ-8C Fire Scout (10+hr.) with the new Osprey radar should also allow for periscope detection coupled with the ISR optics systems. The MQ-8C has a load capacity to allow for several MK-54 (600lb.) torpedoes, similar to the ever popular P-8A.
            IMHO
            🙂

          • Curtis Conway

            Duane, there is some merit to your little dissertation, but if you haven’t been to the United States Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) facility on Andros Island (tongue of the Ocean), then we really have little to discuss.

          • airider

            I’d trade engines for armor if we’re haggling over price. Adding a second engine adds quite a bit of cost, not only for the engines, but the overall design to handle it. Armor is a cheaper and “dumber” alternative to provide the pilot and aircraft the ability to survive enemy fire and get out of harms way and/or get back to base. There’s been quite a bit of progress in armor since the “titanium bathtub” in the A-10 was fielded.

            That said, if we’re going for a two engine design, Scorpion has lots of good attributes and has the weight margin to incorporate some armor as well.

          • RunningBear

            The 700 T-6 flown by the USN/AF are a good base for “This effort to find a lower-cost and exportable aircraft for permissive
            environments is directly in line with the National Defense Strategy,”
            said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.” Third world countries are provided with pilots and maintainer training with their exported aircraft. This allows for interoperability in an international team. We do the training and they do the fighting in “their” country, similar to Iraq and Afghanistan.
            IMHO
            🙂

          • Curtis Conway

            Navy – yea, USAF -no. The USN T-6B is stronger, stiffer, and in the AT-6 form has more hardpoints (seven) which is two more than the A-29 Super Tucano has. I wish the AT-6B Wolverine had the A-29 Super Tucano’s propeller. That A-10C combat system is fully rated for all the NATO weapons right down to the APKWS.

          • RunningBear

            Sadly the Navy has new experience with the propellers on the C-130 and is replacing decades old technology that may have led to the recent loss in Mississippi. The AT-6 could be upgraded with the later prop technology, for these new purchases.

          • Curtis Conway

            I really like the prop on the A-29.

          • tiger

            The AT-6 is a pork package pushed by Beechcraft. The Tucano works. Been proven to work in service with a dozen nations for years. The only reason for competition is that they are sore from loosing the last one.

          • Curtis Conway

            The AT-6 Wolverine employs the A-10C Combat System, and can employ all appropriate NATO weapons on all six (6) wing stores stations (two more than A-29 Super Tucano’s four). They both have four wet wing stores stations, and the centerline for external ferry tanks, or just carrying extra fuel for greater on station time.
            You know me with maintenance commonality, training, and life-time logistical support cost savings with existing systems already in the inventory. There is a huge logistical overlap with the T-6 Texan II Trainer used by the USAF, USN and numerous other air forces around the planet providing for significant cost savings, particularly over time.
            The only real advantage the A-29 has is its two installed guns in the wings, so the pilots can feed that Battle of Britain need that they have. The employment of all appropriate smart weapons by the Wolverine is far more important. The helmet sight helps too.

          • tiger

            Sounds like the Beech company line a bit. The great logistics idea of the Jack of all trades Hornet has not resulted in much savings. And this do over is only for their benefit. But then, I have Pro Tucano glasses on.

          • tiger

            Not needed.

    • Mu’ammar Abdur-Rashid

      The purpose was to build a “low cost” aircraft that could take up the role in patrol and CAS missions. There are lot of countries in Africa and in the Middle East that are looking to purchase the aircraft or it’s competitor. But this is sad news.

      • USNVO

        Need to add Asia, South America, and, since Mexico bought the armed version of the T-6 (T-6C+), North America to your list as well. Not every nation needs jet fighters and not every conflict is Syria.

    • airider

      True….Navy/Marine Corps might get in on the program though if AF ends up buying some. Good CAS assets come in all shapes and sizes. Better to let one service smooth the effort out and then let the other services jump on board. To keep it low cost, avoid Joint at all costs.

    • RunningBear

      Toyota “Technicals” are likely the most mobile air defense systems these US supported countries are to see in the next 10-20 years. The fearsome “S-1000s” will be beyond the budget of the legitimate governments and the terrorist will experience the same ADS attacks that have been demonstrated, routinely in Syria.

      Those that anticipate the US forces flying these anti-terrorist aircraft are abit premature. Yes, they will be received and organized for pilot and maintenance training, as we did with the Montagnard tribesmen on the A-37 during Vietnam but they will be delivered to those countries, as required. AT-6Bs will not be clouding the skies of New Jersey.
      IMHO
      🙂

      • Marauder 2048

        The A-37 is instructive since, IIRC, most of the losses were to small arms/automatic weapons. These light attack aircraft aren’t designed to resist anything more than 7.62×39 AP. Way too much 12.7, 14.5 and 23 out there particularly for aircraft that have a far worse rate of climb than the A-37.

        • Curtis Conway

          Small arms and light AAA is the bane of any CAS aircraft’s existence. THAT is why the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” exist.

        • USNVO

          If the A-29/AT-6B were actually going to fight the same way the A-37 did, you might have a point. Since they will remain above small arms and light AA fire and destroy targets with guided rockets, LGBs, and JDAMs, it is not really a concern. Note that the Iraqis used armed caravans pretty much with impunity.

      • Duane

        S-300s operated by Iran are already protecting Hezbollah assets in Syria. Russian supported Ukrainian rebels used a Buk SAM to shoot down a Maylasian Airways airliner. Iranian supplied Chinese cruise missiles were fired by ragtag Houthi rebels against US Navy destroyers and a UAE Swift vessel. The same ragtag Houthis have been firing dozens of ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia.

        Camel jockeys in technicals is 2000s warfare … in the late 2010s, the Russians and Iranians are proliferating SAMs throughout the middle east to chase Americans out … just as we supplied cheap shoulder fired SAMs to Mujahadeen fighters in Afghanistan 30 years ago to chase out the Soviets.

        None of the terror groups could exist without support from sponsors like Russia and Iran, both of whom are supplying weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan today.

        • RunningBear

          Ha!, I’m sure Israel would like to know where the S-300 is being used by the Hezbollah rather than the Russian assets as listed by the Russians for the Israelis.
          🙂

          • Duane

            Israel knows where they are, has destroyed several of them already with their F-35Is, and lost one of their F-16s to one a few months ago over southern Syria.

            That’s why Israel bought the F-35.

        • tiger

          17 years how many US or NATO planes have been lost to SAMs or AA?

    • USNVO

      The Navy Special Warfare community has been trying to get a light attack and surveillance aircraft to support the SEALs since at least 2009. For that matter, the SEALs pretty much developed the configuration of the Tucano that became the A-29. So having Navy people working with the USAF on this makes all kinds of sense.

  • RunningBear

    RIP to Lt. Short, A-29 test pilot.
    Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Friend and Fellow Aviator; gone to a higher calling.

    • Centaurus

      Yes, and to what end ? Another Review Board analysis ?

      • Duane

        The end was he did his duty.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        Gee, that’s your only concern? Whatta guy you be…

    • DaSaint

      Ditto

  • muzzleloader

    So sorry for the loss of this man.
    The search for a low cost CAS aircraft has been going on since the early 80’s.
    When I was working at Air Force logistics command during that time period the AF had two P-51 mustangs that had been retrofitted with a turboprop engine, and hard points for ordinance. I forget what it’s designation was. The two aircraft were in storage at DM in Tucson for a while. The program was canceled soon after that. I don’t the disposition of the aircraft.

  • Curtis Conway

    The Light Attack CAS aircraft IMHO should have two engines like the OV-10 Bronco, L-159 Honey Badger, or Textron Scorpion. There was no small arms fire involved in this accident.

    • tiger

      All your doing is adding cost, size, and more maintenance.

      • Curtis Conway

        Yep, and don’t forget that last item you didn’t mention . . . an opportunity to at least get behind friendly lines, if not all the way back to the base on the other engine. I’m sure it slipped your mind. Of course this is where we find out just how much you value our aviators.

        • tiger

          If you hit bad enough to lose a engine, your not flying far. Let alone Catch a wire. Turn, burn for the beach, eject. We are not flying ’50’s era jets when you needed two jets.

  • Kenneth Millstein

    How sad! RIP sir!

  • Chesapeakeguy

    So a Navy pilot was killed in an Air Force plane? I’ve been wondering about that. My bet is that ALL of the services are looking for a low cost, low tech air frame for this mission, thus the Navy pilot in an AF program. There has been talk forever now (it seems) where such a platform is desired for employment from large deck amphibs. The Bronco used to be bandied about as one such possibility. Also, the AF wants out of employing the low and slow approach that the A-10 represents. They have been trying
    for a long tome now to retire the A-10s, but the Army and the Congress don’t want them to. They might be looking to hand that approach off to either the Navy or the Marines, or both. Thus it makes sense that pilots from the other services would be involved with this..

    All that said, may that said, may this man RIP, and condolences and prayers to and for his colleagues and loved ones..