A Navy investigation has concluded that pilot error led to an Oct. 1 T-45C Goshawk training aircraft crash in a remote Tennessee national forest killing an instructor and student pilot.
“I can confirm that the JAGMAN investigation into the crash determined the cause to be pilot error,” said Cmdr. Ronald Flanders, spokesman for Naval Air Forces responding to reports received by Navy Times from sources familiar with the investigation.
Flanders also confirmed further details that the error was believed to be the sole cause of the crash. Officials did not find any evidence of of the physiological episodes that have plagued Navy training and operational jet aircraft in the past few years.
Also ruled out was any mechanical, maintenance or weather factors, the source familiar told Navy Times.
Flanders said that the Navy was in the process of notifying the families of both pilots and expected that notification to be complete by noon on Saturday.
The instructor pilot whose error led to the crash was previously identified by the Navy as Lt. Patrick L. Ruth, 31, of Metairie, Louisiana. The student was Lt. j.g. Wallace E. Burch, 25, of Horn Lake, Mississippi.
Ruth was a nine-year Navy veteran and had been an instructor with Training Squadron Seven since 2015. He was commissioned out of Tulane University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps in May 2008, Navy records show.
He trained as an E-2C pilot and did his initial fleet tour with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 between 2012 and 2015, flying with Carrier Air Wing Three off the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman.
Burch had been in the Navy for three years and had been training with VT-7 since 2016. Burch was commissioned in January 2016 from Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I. He was promoted to lieutenant junior grade in January 2017.
The squadron both pilots were attached to is based at Naval Air Station, Meridian, Mississippi.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.