The pilot of the U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter aircraft that crashed in Star Wars Canyon approximately 40 miles north of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, on July 31 has been identified.
The Super Hornet, assigned to the “Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, Calfornia, was flown by Lt. Charles Z. Walker, 33.
“The NAS Lemoore aviation family is grieving the loss of one of our own,” said Capt. James Bates, Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific. “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.”
The pilot was on a routine training mission in the area at the time of the crash. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
“The Navy mourns the loss of one of our own, and our hearts go out to the family and friends affected by this tragedy”, said a Navy statement.
Star Wars Canyon, officially called Rainbow Canyon, is a canyon inside Death Valley National Park in Inyo County, California, on the park’s western border. It is commonly used by the U.S. Air Force and Navy for fighter jet training and is frequented by photographers who, from the canyon rim, are able to photograph jets flying beneath them.