It was just another warm sunny day in the Adriatic Sea and we had been in this operational box before. The Aircraft Carrier U. S. S. SARATOGA (CV-60) left Mayport, Florida in Jan 1994 and was on her last deployment before the Navy was to retire her in August of that same year. During this deployment I had the pleasure of serving as the Flight Deck Coordinator for Strike Fighter Squadron 83 (VFA-83 Rampagers). April 28th started out just like any other day on the flight deck. The troubleshooters and I launched 4 aircraft during the first launch of the day. We had some minor maintenance issues but nothing that couldn't be fixed and still launch all 4 aircraft within the allotted time. I was fortunate to have a great troubleshooting crew working with me. As we prepared for the second launch of the day all four of the "go" aircraft were parked on the stern of the ship, all on one side and in a row next to each other. I enjoyed these types of launches because it allowed me to watch all the aircraft without running up and down the flight deck in case we had maintenance issues with aircraft launching from different areas of the flight deck.
This particular launch included LT Scott Bubeck our Quality Assurance Officer. Mr. Bubeck was a great officer, one who took his job seriously and he also took care of his Sailors. As always, LT Bubeck was in a good mood but on this day he appeared even happier then we had ever seen him before. Some of us like me were aware that LT Bubeck recently had learned that the Navy was not going to allow him to augment into the regular Navy from his reserve status. Not many people knew that he was a USNR. He was sad about the decision by the Bureau of Naval Personnel, but he did accept it. However, as faith would have it, he announced to us that he had just received notification the day before April 27th that the Bureau had reconsidered his request and that he was indeed going to be able to augment into the regular Navy. He was like a child in a candy store. LT Bubeck loved to fly for the Navy and for most of us who knew him knew he was a natural. As he proceeded to look over his aircraft we all acknowledged our happiness for him. He communicated to us that he was so happy that he had called back to the states and told his fiancée to meet him in Palma de Mallorca, Spain our first port visit in the Med during the first week of May, according to him she agreed. The last part of his conversation with us was about LT Bubeck spotting a small yellow bird that had landed just a few feet in front of him on the flight deck. He shouted to me to tell that "yellow shirt" to get out of the way. (Yellow shirts are the aircraft directors on the flight deck) When I turned around to see what he was talking about I saw the small yellow bird and we all started laughing. He had a great sense of humor.
He manned up his jet as did the other 3 pilots. All aircraft started up and proceeded to go through their checks. To my amazement not one of my troubleshooters had to hook up to any of the launching aircraft as the launch cycle was going picture perfect. It was a flight deck coordinators dream. Little did I know that all hell was about to break loose.
As I called all my aircraft up and ready for launch into flight deck control the yellow shirts started to break down the aircraft and put them into position to launch off the deck. LT Bubeck was my second aircraft to launch off of cat one. Once in tension, he preformed his checks, saluted the catapult officer and was launched off the pointy end. As he gained altitude the aircraft immediately started what I considered to be an uncommanded roll to the right. This was a known issue in the F-18 Hornet community, most pilots could recover if they were at a high enough altitude. I knew he was in trouble because my gut told me something was wrong. It is not uncommon for an aircraft to roll to the right off of cat one but this time his angle of attack and rate of roll was just too much. I knew our young LT was in trouble. I immediately called into flight deck control "aircraft in the water" even before the aircraft hit the water. LT Bubeck attempted to eject out of the aircraft, however, by the time he had made that split second decision he was already outside the safety envelope because of his low altitude and position of the aircraft. We all ran over to the starboard side of the ship to look for the aircraft and it was indeed upside down in the water. The canopy was floating along side the aircraft as was the parachute. The ship slowed down to mark the area and the helo was directed to start the rescue mission. The ship also launched the motor whale boat. After realizing what had happened I quietly walked over to one of the parked F-18's on the flight deck and placed my head on the side of the radome (nose of the aircraft) and started to cry. I personnally had never witnessed an aircraft mishap that had suffered the loss of a pilot. Other fellow flight deck coordinators came over to me to console me and make sure that I was ok. In one instant our launch had gone from a flight deck coordinators dream to a flight deck coordinators nightmare. We had indeed lost one of our best and brightest pilots. The squadron cancelled the rest of the flight schedule for that day and I removed myself from the flight deck in order to rest and absorb what had just happened. The very next day I was back to work but with a very heavy heart. LT Scott Bubeck was sorely missed in the squadron and he will be missed in my heart and mind. I personally will never forget him. This was absolutely the worst day of my 31 year Navy career. May he rest in peace!