Losses and Aviation Safety

No, Lt. Col. Ralph Featherstone didn’t Buzz the Tower: Watch the Video of the F/A-18 flyover that Cost VMFA-225 Commander his Job

Featherstone didn’t perform any kind of insane stunt like the super low flyby performed by Maverick in Top Gun to buzz the tower.

Taken on Jan. 23, 2020 at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, the video in this post allegedly features the F/A-18 flyover which cost Lt. Col. Ralph Featherstone, the commanding officer (CO) of Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 (VMFA-225), his job.

The unit held a retirement ceremony the previous day marking the squadron’s final official flight for the two-seat F/A-18D it has flown since it was re-established in 1991.

VMFA-225 is currently making the transition from the F/A-18D Hornet to using the USMC new vertical takeoff fighter, the F-35B Lightning II.

The U.S. Marines Corps (USMC) said in a statement that Featherstone, who took command of VMFA-225 last April, was fired on Jan. 24 due to concerns about poor judgment.

Actually, an anonymous source told Marine Corps Times that the flight was lower and faster than was approved in the flight plan.

Honestly, we don’t think that Featherstone performed any kind of insane stunt like the super low flyby performed by Maverick in Top Gun to buzz the tower. Not only the flyover was hardly “unsafe,” but LtCol Featherstone was not even flying the plane, he was the back seater for the flyby.

Hence, we don’t think that Featherstone should have been fired for celebrating the Hornet with his squadron one last time during this special event.

According to his official Marine Corps biography on the unit’s site, Lt. Col. Featherstone was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in 1999.

Featherstone’s awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korean Defense Medal, the Outstanding Volunteer Medal, and seven Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • Someone didn't like him....most likely his commanding officer, that simple.

  • Honestly we all know why. Cut backs. He wasn't even flying the jet. So it makes no sense. Why would someone report him? Hmm. Sounds like a disgruntled employee.. if we knew a little more about the reporting. Then there might other charges against the reporter. Like disrespecting a officer. The commander did nothing wrong. The pilot did. Perhaps the commander was protecting his men. The commander knowing he'll have a great retirement regardless of what took place. Vs the pilot that willn't make it that long. His or her family suffers. It's a hard one to understand but my theory is there's a political sniper in his command that needs charges of disrespect against them. This is clearly a sign of disrespect. When people get away with sniping in the political world high up. It allows people below to snipe you out..

  • Last I checked, the Marine Corps protects democracy, it doesn’t practice it, and we don’t get to vote whether a demotion was or wasn’t deserved. The commander in question had a flight plan he decided to deviate from without permission. Riding in the back seat, he may not have been the actual pilot, but he was the squadron commander and the pilot was under his command and presumably his control. Aircraft which deviate from their flight plans are potential safety hazards, and enough aircraft deviating from their plans would create chaos in the skies. That’s why the commander exercised poor judgment by deviating from his.

    • You know it!. Airspace rules are not optional. Deviation is at you're own risk and/or peril.

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