Barich, Kurt, LCDR

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Last Rank
Lieutenant Commander
Last Primary NEC
131X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Pilot
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1998-1998, 131X, USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
Service Years
1985 - 1998
Official/Unofficial US Navy Certificates
Operation Desert Storm
Order of the Rock
Order of the Shellback
Persian Excursion
Suez Canal
Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander

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This Military Service Page was created/owned by Eugene Claude Ipox, Jr., TM1 to remember Barich, Kurt, LCDR.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Oak Harbour
Last Address
Memorial Section F Site 46-B
Find A Grave Memorial# 22089573

Date of Passing
Nov 08, 1998
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

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Order of the Shellback Persian Gulf Yacht Club

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Last Known Activity

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot
March 22, 1999

Landing Crew Blamed For Aviators' Deaths

By Jack Dorsey, The Virginian-Pilot

NORFOLK - A crash that claimed four aviators' lives aboard the carrier Enterprise last year was the fault of the landing crew entrusted with bringing the jet aboard the ship safely, the Navy has concluded.

Its investigation found that a series of distractions on the deck, incorrect assumptions by those landing the aircraft and hesitation by the carrier's ``air boss'' led to the collision.

Two other Enterprise aviators barely escaped death, the Navy's investigation showed, by ejecting from their idling S-3 Viking just as an EA-6B Prowler slammed into it.

The investigation exonerated all of the aviators, laying the blame on three landing officers.

``This fatal mishap could and should have been prevented,'' wrote Vice Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of the 2nd Fleet, in his endorsement of the investigation.

``In this case,'' he said, ``flawed assumptions, lack of assertive initiative and poor judgment on the part of key personnel collectively enabled a chain of events to occur which undermined established procedures, resulting in tragically unintended consequences.''

Two landing signal officers, a lieutenant and lieutenant commander, plus the ``air boss,'' a commander with years of flight experience, were disciplined as a result of their actions. They received punitive letters of reprimand and were removed from their posts.

The Navy refused to identify any of them by name.

The reprimands are considered to be career stoppers and most likely mean they will not advance in rank and will have to leave the service. The three also were stripped of their qualifications to land aircraft.

The accident happened at 7:20 p.m. Nov. 8 as the Enterprise was getting ready to deploy overseas on a six-month cruise. The carrier, now in the Persian Gulf, is scheduled to return home to Norfolk in early May.

Results of the 600-page Judge Advocate General report, obtained by The Virginian-Pilot under the Freedom of Information Act, were released this weekend by Fallon.

Investigators who reconstructed the accident through witnesses and a videotape of the collision, said ``the actions of the pilot and crew of `Prowler 503' in no way contributed to the cause of this mishap.''

The report concluded that ``the aircrew of Prowler 503 never realized that Viking 706 was in the landing area.''

According to the report, the ship had been recovering and launching aircraft that night as part of its carrier qualifications.

The Viking had made a normal landing, but remained in the landing area while other aircraft were being repositioned.

As one officer noted, the flight deck was ``clobbered'' with about 40 aircraft on its deck. The backup was caused by two jets that were late getting into position for launch.

The flight deck chief said he made the decision to hold the Viking, known as ``Viking 706,'' in the landing area until ``I had a hole for that aircraft.''

In the Viking was a two-man crew: Cmdr. James Gregory Wallace, 44, of Jacksonville, Fla., the pilot, and Lt. j.g. Kirk Alan Schneringer, 26, of Cardiff, Calif.

Wallace, in his statement, said he had retracted his tailhook, secured his lights and folded his wings in anticipation of moving off the landing area and into a safe parking area. A deck crewman stood in front of his plane with lighted wands crossed -- the signal for a ``fouled'' or occupied landing area.

Meanwhile, Prowler 503 was approaching the stern of the ship for an anticipated landing. But because of the crowded deck, it was told by the tower to go ``hook up,'' meaning the plane would not lower its tailhook to catch the arresting gear. Instead, the pilot was to do a touch-and-go landing.

The Prowler crew was not told that Viking 706 blocked its path.

Lt. Cmdr. Kurt W. Barich, 35, of Oak Harbor, Wash., was flying the four-seat Prowler. With him were: Lt. j.g. Charles E. Woodard, 26, of Herndon; Lt. j.g. Meredith Carol Loughran, 26, of Sandston, Va.; and Lt. j.g. Brendan J. Duffy, 27, of Annapolis, Md.

On the stern of the Enterprise, at its extreme left, or port side, stood nine landing signal officers (LSOs) and telephone talkers who observe the landing planes, offer advice and determine whether pilots are approaching on the proper glide slope, in alignment and at safe speeds and altitudes.

They also work with the officers in the tower, eight stories above the flight deck on the starboard side, who have a clear view of all flight deck operations.

Investigators noted that aboard the Enterprise, which is the only carrier of its type, LSOs frequently have trouble seeing forward to the flight deck, especially when a parked aircraft obstructs their view. They have to kneel down and look under the plane to see the flight deck.

That arrangement does not exist on the newer carriers, investigators said. In addition, the wire for the wave-off, or so-called ``pickle switch,'' was too short for the controlling and backup LSO to walk to the foul line to help clear the landing area, the report noted.

On the night of the accident, an F/A-18 Hornet was parked between them and the landing area.

As the Prowler approached, lights at the stern of the Enterprise were red to signal to the pilot that the deck was ``fouled'' because Viking 706 was parked in the landing area.

It is not uncommon for aircraft to continue to approach the ship with a red light on, the report noted.

Normally the light changes to green in time for the pilots to continue their landings. Pilots depend on the LSOs to wave them off if an approach is unsafe.

For some reason, said the investigators, the normal pattern of calling the deck ``broke down,'' and there was no LSO observer talking to the tower to learn of changing conditions. In the tower, the aft plane spotter indicated to the air boss that the deck was fouled.

``At this point, the air boss was aware that Viking 706 would remain in the landing area and that Prowler 503 would not be able to land, and he expected the LSO to wave off Prowler 503,'' investigators said.

As the Prowler approached the ship from one mile off, the LSO on the stern called the tower to receive information concerning two additional aircraft that were following the Prowler in. They also would be told to come in with ``hook up'' approaches.

As Prowler 503 was calling the ``ball'' -- meaning he was lined up and near his landing -- the LSO was having difficulty hearing the tower, investigators said.

In an effort to hear better, he removed his foam earplug, crouched down and hunched his body around the receiver.

Several of the LSO personnel were not aware of the radio transmission directing the Prowler and another Viking to come in with their hooks up, investigators said. The LSOs also believed the deck was clear.

But the aft spotter in the tower saw the Prowler was inbound and repeated to the air boss, ``Foul deck.''

When the air boss realized no one was waving off the Prowler, he yelled over the 5MC loudspeakers: ``No chance, Paddles! Wave him off.''

Investigators found, however, that there were problems with the ``5MC speaker group'' near the LSO platform and said this ``may have been a contributing factor'' but was not directly responsible for the crash.

The air boss had a wave-off button of his own, but he apparently hesitated to use it because LSO school personnel had advised him not to take such decision-making abilities away from the LSOs by using it too frequently.

The air boss's hesitation proved fatal, the investigators said.

From then on, it seemed everyone was trying to get the Prowler to abort. LSOs were yelling, ``Foul deck, foul deck.'' An F-14 pilot waiting in his plane on deck yelled the same over his radio. Some deck personnel started running for safety.

The air boss finally hit the ``wave-off'' lights just as the Prowler passed over the ship's stern ramp, about 10 feet off the ground.

Wallace, the Viking pilot in the Prowler's path, and Schneringer, the tactical coordinator sitting to his right, were concerned.

``We heard Prowler 503 call the ball, and I made a comment to (Schneringer) like `I can't believe they're working this guy.' I don't remember a lot of radio calls to Prowler 503, although there were a few.

``I then turned to (Schneringer) and said something to the effect of `This is stupid. It isn't right.' He responded with words to the effect of `It doesn't feel right.'

``I was becoming very concerned and reached to place my hand on the throttle to key the radio when I noticed the image of my director running away from the aircraft,'' said Wallace.

``At the same time there were suddenly lots of frantic radio transmissions. I looked at (Schneringer) and bent over, looking down, reaching for the ejection handles, then felt the impact. I put my left hand on top of my right hand and said, `Eject,' pulling the handle almost simultaneously.

``About that time, I saw flames coming up between my legs and heard a horrific sound. I definitely heard the `pop pop' of the ejection seats, felt the rush of acceleration and the sensation of air hitting my face.''

Wallace was thrown clear of the flight deck. His parachute deployed, and he landed in the water behind the carrier. He spent 25 minutes in the water before being rescued by a helicopter.

Schneringer was snagged by the carrier's 100-foot-tall island. He hung from his parachute unconscious in front of the flag bridge 10 stories above the deck.

Both men suffered cuts and burns, but have recovered.

Witnesses say Barich, the Prowler pilot, reacted to the wave-off and began pulling the aircraft up and away from the deck. He never touched the deck and was perhaps never lower than 10 feet to it.

Witnesses thought he was going to make it, pilots told investigators.

However, the plane's right wing struck the Viking's vertical stabilizer. Its nose struck the Viking's left wing, which had been folded up for parking.

A massive fireball erupted, throwing debris throughout the deck and slightly injuring 12 flight deck personnel.

The Viking was spun to the right, damaging a nearby F/A-18 Hornet, and debris slid into a second plane.

The Prowler veered off the port side of the ship and disappeared.

The body of one of the Prowler crew members was recovered. The other three are lost at sea. All were assigned to Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 130, based at Whidbey Island, Wash.

Firefighting and salvage crews had the fires under control within five minutes and extinguished within eight.

Investigators have recommended them for commendations.

In its opinions and recommendations, the report notes that neither the ship's commanding officer, its air wing commander, nor the assistant air officer could have prevented the accident.

It suggested that the practice of parking an airplane in front of the LSOs, blocking them from easily seeing the landing area, should be reviewed. It also suggested that additional wire be installed on the LSO's pickle switches to allow the LSOs to reach an area where they can see better. That change has been made.

Investigators noted that there were lighting problems on the deck, but concluded that they were not a cause of the collision.

Sodium vapor lights, used to brightly illuminate the flight deck in yellow, were not working. Instead, the deck was lit by blue and white lights that did not provide lighting the deck crew was accustomed to working around.

``The sodium lights, while they may have allowed someone to better view the landing area, had no effect on the failure to observe the deck status lights,'' the report concluded.

It was the landing crew who failed the lost aviators, investigators said.

``The mishap was caused by a complete loss of situational awareness by all LSOs on the platform. The staff LSO had been distracted by a phone call . . . which was not unusual. What was unusual is the length and timing of that call.

``At the time of this phone call, (one unidentified LSO) had full trust and confidence in the ability and qualification of both the controlling and backup LSO whom he had assigned. Unfortunately, both the controlling and backup LSO incorrectly assumed that the deck was clear and failed to keep the deck status lights in their scan.

``Concurrently, the remaining LSOs on the platform were distracted from their normal routine, focusing solely on the approaching aircraft or another task at hand, thus failing to note that the deck was foul.''

Investigators also blamed the tower personnel, especially the air boss:

``A simultaneous, but entirely separate cause of this mishap occurred in the tower. The (air boss) watched this situation develop from the time Prowler 503 called the ball and continued the approach. He visually checked and realized Viking 706 would not clear the landing area in time for Prowler 503 to land. At this point, he waited for the LSOs to initiate a wave-off, then called, `No chance, Paddles! Wave him off. . . .

``He expected an immediate wave-off response from the LSOs, which in fact did not occur. Realizing too late the gravity of the situation, he then depressed his tower wave-off button.''

``I was becoming very concerned and reached to place my hand on the throttle to key the radio when I noticed the image of my director running away from the aircraft,'' said Wallace.

``At the same time there were suddenly lots of frantic radio transmissions. I looked at (Schneringer) and bent over, looking down, reaching for the ejection handles, then felt the impact. I put my left hand on top of my right hand and said, `Eject,' pulling the handle almost simultaneously.

``About that time, I saw flames coming up between my legs and heard a horrific sound. I definitely heard the `pop pop' of the ejection seats, felt the rush of acceleration and the sensation of air hitting my face.''

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 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
US NavyVAQ-130 ZappersUSS Enterprise (CVN-65)
  1989-1989, 131X, Naval Weather Service Environmental Detachment (NWSED) NAS Whidbey Island, WA
  1998-1998, 131X, VAQ-130 Zappers
  1998-1998, 131X, USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1990-1991 Gulf War (Iraq)
  1995-1995 Operation Joint Endeavour (IFOR)
 Colleges Attended 
University of New Mexico
  1981-1985, University of New Mexico
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