The Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet jet pilot killed in a Death Valley crash on July 31 was 33-year-old Lt. Charles Zachary Walker, officials told Navy Times.
Authorities continue to probe the mishap, which occurred about 40 miles north of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
Seven visitors to Death Valley National Park were treated for injuries caused by debris hurled from the crash.
Military pilots routinely jet through Star Wars Canyon, operations that draw tourists hoping to photograph low-level training missions against the spectacular desert backdrop.
Walker was assigned to the Vigilantes of Strike Fighter Squadron 151 based at California’s Naval Air Station Lemoore.
“The NAS Lemoore aviation family is grieving the loss of one of our own,” said Capt. James Bates, the commander of Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, in a statement emailed to Navy Times.
"Lt. Walker was an incredible naval aviator, husband and son. He was an integral member of the Vigilante family and his absence will be keenly felt on this flight line. Our aviators understand the risk associated with this profession and they knowingly accept it in service to our nation. The untimely loss of a fellow aviator and shipmate pains us all. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Military records indicate that Walker was commissioned on Dec. 15, 2008, following his graduation from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Dayton Beach, Florida, where he was a member of the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps.
On June 18, 2011, the Naval Aviator reported to Lemoore’s VFA-122 — the Navy’s fleet replacement squadron for F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
He joined the Dambusters of VFA-195 on April 27, 2012, a stint at the Iwakuni, Japan-based squadron that lasted for three years.
He pinned on lieutenant in Japan.
A “Top Gun” pilot, he trained at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nevada, in 2015.
In early 2018, he reported to the Vigilantes.
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.