Losses and Aviation Safety

U.S. Navy Identifies VFA-151 Pilot Killed in Star Wars Canyon F/A-18E Super Hornet Crash

Lt. Charles Walker, 33, died when his F/A-18E Super Hornet crashed about 40 miles north of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.

The U.S. Navy has identified the F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot who was killed on Jul. 31, 2019 a crash in Death Valley National Park, Calif.

Lt. Charles Walker, 33, died when his aircraft crashed about 40 miles north of Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, Calif.

The Super Hornet, most probably F/A-18E BuNo. 168471, NG-400, the CAG bird of the squadron, crashed at about 10 a.m. local time in the so-called “Star Wars Canyon” – a popular spot for military aviation photographers in the Death Valley National Park.

Walker was assigned to the “Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron 151 (VFA-151), based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, Calif.

“The NAS Lemoore aviation family is grieving the loss of one of our own,” Capt. James Bates, commander of Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, said in a statement. “Lt. Walker was an incredible naval aviator, husband and son. He was an integral member of the Vigilante family and his absence will be keenly felt on this flight line. Our aviators understand the risk associated with this profession and they knowingly accept it in service to our nation. The untimely loss of a fellow aviator and shipmate pains us all. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.”

A Navy summary of the crash reviewed by USNI News said the aircraft impacted against the side of the canyon wall during low altitude training.

The National Park Service told reporters that seven people suffered minor injuries as a result of the crash.

The incident is now under investigation.

Walker had reported to the squadron in February 2018, shortly after the Vigilantes had returned from a deployment aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), according to his official Navy biography.

Prior to the assignment, Walker had been assigned to the Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific at NAS Lemoore. He had also been assigned to the “Dambuster” Strike Fighter Squadron 195 (VFA-195) as part of the Navy’s forward-deployed Carrier Air Wing 5 based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

He commissioned in late 2008 shortly before graduating from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Walker did not list a home of record, according to Navy officials.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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.

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