The governor is outraged over the “perilous disregard” a Virginia-based Navy squadron showed when a military jet buzzed unannounced over several Connecticut towns.
In response to the surprise, M. Jodi Rell has written to Cmdr. J.J Cummings at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach and she’s also asking for more remote routes be used for future training flights.
“This represented an incredibly perilous disregard for the safety of our citizens and is absolutely unacceptable,” Rell wrote to Cummings. “This occurred without warning and without any explanation to authorities in Connecticut. The lack of communication and coordination is outrageous and caused needless alarm in dozens of Connecticut neighborhoods from our shoreline to the central region of the state.”
The reason a Navy fighter jet took several Connecticut residents by surprise, rattling their homes and their nerves, was a communication breakdown, Lt. Col. Spyros Spanos, of the Connecticut National Guard said Friday.
Some of the appropriate agencies had no idea that a Navy pilot was set to buzz over several Connecticut.
The miscommunication was between the Navy, the Federal Aviation Administration and Bradley Airport, Lt. Col. Spyros Spanos, of the Connecticut National Guard said Friday, and no one told Bradley Airport, which is supposed to authorize something like this.
So, no one told residents that this was just a drill. Instead, the Navy caused some commotion, concern and a whole lot of questions.
The plane was a Navy F-18 Hornet from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach on a training mission from Virginia to Maine, according to the Connecticut National Guard.
State officials have now been told that the fighter jet is part of Strike Fighter Squadron Eleven from Virginia Beach and was on a “routine” training flight, Rell said.
When residents of Wallingford, Meriden, Southington and North Haven questioned why a low-flying military plane was shaking their houses and setting off their car alarms (not to mention those Blue Angels-style maneuvers that residents reported seeing), no one knew for sure.
The military does these types of training missions regularly but the planes often fly so high that they are not visible, Spanos said.
But that’s not what happened Thursday, and the FAA provided some insight into why things were different this time. The air space the pilot flew over falls under VFR, or visual flight rules, which require the pilot to see and be seen. It is not, however, on an FAA radar and pilots in that space do not have to communicate with air traffic controllers, FAA officials said.
The FAA has reported the incident to the Flight Standards Office, which is responsible for pilot certification, but it was a military plane, so the military will take over the investigation to see if the pilot was operating normally or at unduly low altitudes.
Witnesses say the jet flew about 100 feet over treetops and performed twisting maneuvers.
According to Bradley, the plane was never actually below 2,300 feet. Whether the pilot did or did not fly too low, it does not seem that the FAA can do anything because it does not have authority over punitive action.
The FAA is, however, reviewing the communication breakdown.
“I have the highest regard and respect for the brave and well-trained men and women of our U.S. military. However, I strongly question the need to fly so dangerously close to homes and businesses so as to put many lives at risk,” the Governor’s letter stated. “I would hope you take seriously my concerns and the concerns of our citizens. Please carry out training flights over more remote areas. I am also requesting that my office be apprised in advance of these missions.”