In the language of the United States Navy VP-50 was “Fixed Wing Patrol Squadron 50” – also known as the Blue Dragons. From 1946 until June 30, 1992 they were an active squadron of the United States Navy. I once flew for the U.S. Navy. The death of any aviator or any sailor has an impact on all of us who earned Navy Wings of Gold – or any of the other hard-earned insignias of naval service (surface warfare, submarines, SEALS, and the other specialties).

On March 21, 1991 two P-3C Orions of VP-50 collided about 60 miles southwest of San Diego, CA in bad weather. One aircraft was relieving the other on a normal anti-submarine patrol watch. The aircraft were stationed at Naval Air Station Moffett Field, south of San Francisco, CA. I distinctly remember reading the first newspaper reports the day after the accident – 27 U.S. Navy personnel missing at sea. That is a horrific toll for any Navy squadron, whose total personnel would only be a few hundred officers and enlisted men – especially when it happened in a single instant, in peacetime. I could only imagine the shock and sorrow within the VP-50 family and NAS Moffett Field community that day.

The cause of the accident was never determined beyond it being a mid-air collision. Pilot error was probably a contributing cause – and weather, crew fatigue, and perhaps a mechanical problem additional factors. The human cost, however, was almost instantly quantified – 27 young souls lost at sea lost forever to their wives, children, parents, friends, and shipmates. Lost, but not forgotten.

Moffett Field Naval Air Station has been closed, but Moffett Field as a civilian airport remains. Located on its grounds is a plaque listing the names of all 27 men who perished in the Pacific Ocean that night. There is another monument to these same men in Arlington National Cemetery.

I have included three photographs in this post. One is of the monument at Moffett Field, listing the names of those who perished that night. Another is of four VP-50 aircraft in flight. And one is of two P-3C Orion aircraft flying over the Golden Gate Bridge. These are not VP-50 aircraft, but I know every man who ever flew with VP-50 out of Moffett Field witnessed this view. They loved flying for moments like this.

Please visit the VP-50 web page devoted to the men who died that night at: http://www.vpnavy.com/vp50mem_04dec98.html