Crash – 197

Written by: Matt Witten; Watch Now: – Sorry, not available on Amazon

[Although completely at odds (surprise, surprise) Mac and Harm investigate the same case in this episode. In a momentary lapse, Chegwidden reveals a rudimentary sense of humor; and, Bud seems to be “growing up”… a bit.]

Lt. James Ross crashed his F18 Hornet onto the ramp of the USS Bennington and was killed. Both Harm (H) and Mac (M) were assigned to do the JAG investigation, and Captain Goldman complimented H on his previous “Seahawk investigation.” They discovered that Ross had been landing on “automatic” but needed to switch to manual because he was too low. Then, they found that most of the plane had been burned, along with the maintenance data tapes. They were told that Ross had been following the glide path programmed into the computer; but, its data was also lost, so they couldn’t check it. PO 1st class Dakey denied any computer error and said that most often problems are due to a misaligned angle of attack vane. The senior chief got defensive and said the vane was NOT out of order, because they had specifically double checked it. Harm asked why he was so defensive and he said he didn’t like to speak ill of the dead. Ross had come back from two weeks leave, very depressed, and said that, because his wife was having an affair, he didn’t care what happened to him anymore. The Sr. Chief said he didn’t believe the crash was an accident.

Mac found an unsent email, to Ross’ wife Arlene, which said “give me one good reason I shouldn’t just fly into the back of the ship some night. I told Stanich I didn’t care if I live or die and he said he didn’t give a damn either, and to just suck it up and keep flying.” They confronted the CAG, Cdr Stanich, with the email and he didn’t deny the encounter; but, said that he didn’t take the comment seriously because most of the flyers had come back from leave with mood swings. They both thought that Ross’ death looked like it was suicide, but M also tore into Stanich with a passion. Harm and M argued in front of the captain, and he asked: “you two work together? That must be a picnic.” But, he agreed with M and ordered an article 32 investigation on Stanich. Mac strong-armed Ross’ wife into testifying against Stanich, threatening to subpoena her. She said that she would loose $500,000.00 insurance money if it was adjudged suicide. Mac and H continued their argument in front of Chegwidden (C), who said he agreed with H. They were so adamant that C told H he would prosecute and M defend. When they just stood there stunned and sputtering – C said “just kidding.”

Harm wanted to delay going on the investigation for a day, so he could keep an appointment with one of Mattie’s (Mt) teachers. He didn’t say anything to C though, and asked Coates (Co) to substitute for him. She said she would talk with the “Dragon Lady,” and watch Mt, if H would “leave his credit card.” Drabowski, the teacher, was threatening to flunk Mt if she didn’t hand in all of the semesters work, even though she wasn’t there for half of it. Drabowski really was an unreasonable, judgmental, witch, who started ragging on H for being “an uncaring, uninvolved parent.” Mattie tried to get her back on track, but Drabowski turned on Mt as well; so, Mt walked out on her. Coates called H and said Mt “needed a little parenting.” Mattie told him that Drabowski said he was “an irresponsible father who didn’t care about her education,” and H said: “so you were sticking up for me.” Mattie told him that he would have the chance to stick up for himself next Friday and H promised that “nothing would keep him away.” When H got back, he found that Mt had stayed home from school, ostensibly ill, and told her that if she “ever was feeling overwhelmed, to promise him that she would come to him.” She said, “sure, I’ll do that, if you’re around.” He told her that he never felt he was a teenager and had always regretted it. He said that she had “plenty of time to grow up so to enjoy the freedom.” She said that she had been free to do pretty much what she wanted before she met him, and he merely said “so could I.” Of course, he left the next week and told Mt “I’ll try and be back.” She told him “go ahead, knock yourself out!”

Bud (B) was shown calling Mike (Mk) and getting the answering machine. He left a message about “how long is this act going to go on – Mikey?” but was interrupted by H. Bud was second chair in the defense and had found “suicide prevention training” on the internet. He had H respond to a distressed “virtually depressed” sailor, and the computer gave H “zero” on his “don’t be a fool” response. Bud told H that when he was depressed over his leg, he was “just glad I didn’t have a gun around.” Arlene testified that Ross had come home a cocky career pilot, who ordered everyone around like they were enlisted personnel, and argued. He got the idea that she was having an affair and wouldn’t listen to reason. When Ross had called her from Naples, she made him promise to “see someone” if he felt bad, and he promised that he would see his CO. Mac pontificated and the judge (not to mention H) had to tell her to stop editorializing several times. Stanich said he regretted giving the pilots leave, because they all came back unfocused, bickering and saying off the wall things. One said he was going to slug the captain so he could be sent home, another that he was going to jump ship and swim back to Naples. He thought Ross was fooling around like the rest of us.

Harm discovered that Ross had ordered a motorcycle two days before his death, and asked for a continuance, so he could go back to the ship. When there, he asked for an F18 so he could recreate the flight. He told the captain that he had gotten his quals “in another agency.” Bud told Dakey that they had been able to resurrect the “last 84 minutes” of Ross’ flight and were going to follow the settings exactly. During the flight, Dakey nervously tried to say the numbers were wrong and stop the flight. He finally got so nervous that he blurted out “the radar’s wrong, that’s why Ross crashed.” Harm told him he had been flying on manual the whole time. He admitted that there had been a “couple of 4 wires that night. Planes had been landing long so he tweaked the settings.” Both B and the Capt ragged on Dakey about his allowing a woman to think her husband had committed suicide and loose benefits as well as letting Stanich go to jail. The Capt told him that he would be in the brig “for years” and Dakey broke and ran. He climbed outside the ships rail and threatened to jump. Bud told everyone to “let him handle it” (probably because of his internet training making him an expert) and tried to commiserate with Dakey. When that wasn’t working he blurted: “don’t be a fool” which got him to stop; and brought him back inside the railing.

The judge acknowledged the new information, but ragged on Stanich about how insensitive he’d been, anyway. Then he said Stanich had “probably learned his lesson” and recommended against a court-martial. Harm made it to Mt’s school just in time; but, didn’t avoid the Dragon Lady’s launch into her tirade. Finally H pulled out a business plan for a crop dusting company, letters to the IRS, banks and suppliers, and a 20-page letter to the juvenile court judge that Mt had written over her custody hearings. Drabowski said “I suppose that will do.”

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