The Navy has identified an F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot killed in a July 31 crash as Lt. Charles Z. Walker, 33, whom his commanding officer described as “an incredible naval aviator, husband and son.”
Walker was killed when his Super Hornet crashed about 40 miles north of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, during a training mission.
He was was assigned to the “Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron 151 based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, a Strike Fighter Wing Pacific news release says.
“The NAS Lemoore aviation family is grieving the loss of one of our own,” Capt. James Bates, commander of Strike Wing Pacific, said in the release. “He was an integral member of the Vigilante family and his absence will be keenly felt on this flight line.”
Seven people at Death Valley National Park were reportedly injured when Walker's Super Hornet went down while flying through Rainbow Canyon, which has been dubbed “Star Wars Canyon” because of its resemblance to the Death Star trench at the climax of Star Wars: A New Hope.
U.S. military pilots frequently fly low-level training missions through the canyon, according to New York Times reporter Christine Hauser.
No information about how Walker's plane went down was immediately available. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.
“Our aviators understand the risk associated with this profession and they knowingly accept it in service of our nation,” Bates said in the news release. “The untimely loss of a fellow aviator and shipmate pains us all. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.”